Mom’s prenatal diet affects baby’s mental health

Shelby D Burns

bellyMothers who eat junk food while pregnant are more likely to have children with mental health problems. This is according to researchers from Deakin University in Australia. They along with other researchers from Norway analyzed more than 23,000 mothers who participated in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort.

Symptoms of depression, anxiety and aggression

The study took a close look at mothers’ diets throughout pregnancy and their children’s diets at both 18 months and 3 years of age. The moms were asked to complete questionnaires when their children were 18 months, three years and five years old. They were asked to report any symptoms of depression, anxiety, conduct disorder or ADHD. Researchers then analyzed the relationship of maternal diet during pregnancy to the mental health symptoms of the children from 18 months to five years old.

Increased behavioral problems

The study revealed that mothers who eat more unhealthy foods during pregnancy, such as sweet soft drinks, refined cereals and salty foods have children with increased behavioral problems, such as aggression and tantrums. The study also showed that children who eat more unhealthy foods in their first years of life also show increased aggression and behavioral problems as well as depression and anxiety.

Diet matters to mental health

“It’s becoming even more clear that diet matters to mental health right across the age spectrum,” said associate professor Felice Jacka, researcher at the IMPACT Strategic Research Center at Deakin University. “These new findings suggest that unhealthy and ‘junk’ foods may have an impact on the risk for mental health problems in children, and they add to the growing body of evidence on the impact of unhealthy diets on the risk for depression, anxiety and even dementia.”

Eat more whole foods and less processed ones

Pregnant moms don’t need to go on a special diet, but they should restrict their intake of sugars and processed foods. Introduce more whole fruits and vegetables, beans, nut milks and yogurt. “The changes to our food systems, including the shift to more high-energy, low nutrition foods developed and marketed by the processed food industry, have led to a massive increase in obesity-related illnesses right across the globe,” Jacka concluded.

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