How what you eat affects your child’s neurological development

The research showed that two-year-olds whose mothers were diagnosed with gestational diabetes showed poorer language skills compared to children whose mothers were not diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

A new study conducted at the University of Turku reveals that gestational diabetes in mothers may have a negative impact on the neurodevelopment of two-year-old children. On the contrary, the study found that a healthy and balanced diet of the mother supports the neurological development of the child.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Turku and University Hospital of Turku in Finland underscores the critical role that a mother’s health and lifestyle play in regulating her child’s neurodevelopment. The study specifically looked at the effect of gestational diabetes, obesity, and diet during pregnancy on the neurodevelopment of two-year-olds.

The research project examined the development of children’s cognitive, language and motor skills. Maternal obesity was determined by air displacement plethysmography and gestational diabetes by oral glucose tolerance test. Dietary intake during pregnancy was assessed through diet quality index and fish consumption questionnaires.

“On average, the neurodevelopment of the children in our data was in the normal range. The results of our research showed that two-year-old children whose mothers were diagnosed with gestational diabetes had poorer language skills than children whose mothers were not diagnosed with gestational diabetes,” she says. PhD researcher Lotta Sarros of the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Turku.

In addition, the study discovered that a higher percentage of maternal body fat was associated with poorer cognitive, language, and motor skills in children.

“Our observation is unique, in that previous studies have not examined the relationship between maternal body composition and children’s neurodevelopment,” notes Sarros.

Diabetes and obesity during pregnancy, and high body fat mass in particular, have unfavorable effects on the mother’s metabolism and increase inflammation in the body. In fact, these are the possible mechanisms through which harmful factors affect a child’s neurodevelopment.

The mother’s diet during pregnancy can affect the baby’s neurological development

The study also revealed that better nutritional quality of the mother’s diet was associated with better language development for the child. A similar finding was also made between the mother’s consumption of fish and the child’s neurodevelopment.

The results point to the same conclusion that a good diet contains unsaturated fatty acids found, for example, in fish. Soft, unsaturated fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, promote neurological development in children.

says Professor Kirsi Laitinen, who leads the Early Nutrition and Health Research Group at the University of Turku, which carried out the study.

Reference: “Maternal obesity, gestational diabetes, and diet-related neurodevelopment of 2-year-old children” by Lotta Saros, Anika Lind, Sirko Cetanen, Christina Terti, Ella Koivuniemi, Anarella Ahtola, Lina Hataga, Nitin Shivapa, James R. Hebert, and Tero Wahlberg , and Kersi Laehtinen, Jan. 3, 2023, Available Here. Pediatric Research.
DOI: 10.1038/s41390-022-02455-4

How what you eat affects your child’s neurological development

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