Nutrition during pregnancy plays a central role in the development of babies. It is known that severe maternal malnutrition or lack of certain nutrients (iron, iodine, etc.) is associated with poorer cognitive development in children. Similarly, a good quality diet during this period would have a favorable effect on the development of children, but this is less studied. The team led by Blandine de Lauzon-Guillain, director of research at the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm), looked at the link between the nutritional quality of the mother during pregnancy and the development cognitive development, as part of the Elfe cohort, the first French longitudinal study on a national scale devoted to monitoring 18,000 children, born in 2011, from birth to adulthood, carried out by the National Institute for demographic studies (INED) and Inserm.
In this work, presented Thursday, October 6, the researchers collected what mothers eat during the last three months of pregnancy, then the neurodevelopment of the child was evaluated by questionnaire at 1 year and 2 years, then by an investigator during a face-to-face interview at age 3 and a half.
On the maternal side, the researchers first looked at the adequacy of the consumption of pregnant women with the nutritional recommendations, particularly in terms of nutrient intake. Then they established five food profiles: “Western” (with a higher than average consumption of fries, pizzas, red meat, charcuterie, cakes); “balanced” (fruits, vegetables, wholemeal bread, legumes, yoghurts); “bread and spreads” (bread, butter, chocolate, cheese, etc.); “processed foods”; and “breakfast”, with a high consumption of milk, cereals…
“The socio-economic characteristics, the health of the mothers, the interactions of the mother with the child… were also taken into account”explains Blandine de Lauzon-Guillain, lead author of the study published in August in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The impact of ultra-processed foods
Conclusion : “the more women have a good quality diet during pregnancy, the better the neurodevelopment scores at 1 year, 2 years and 3.5 years”, summarizes the researcher. Likewise, “the more fruits and vegetables, and fish, pregnant women consume, the better the child development scores up to 3.5 years”, adds Blandine de Lauzon-Guillain. Conversely, the “processed food” nutritional profile, or an excessive consumption of cold cuts – the recommendations for the population being not to exceed 150 grams per week – are associated with poorer cognitive development.
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