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According to a French study, pregnant women who favor a quality diet based on fish, fruit and vegetables have children who show better overall and verbal development between birth and the age of two.
What if the quality of the products consumed influenced the neurological and cognitive development of the child, between birth and two years old? This is shown by a French study based on data from the Longitudinal Study since Childhood (ELFE). This is the largest French study on the development of children: it follows 18,000 babies born in 2011, through tests and questionnaires.
To arrive at these results, the researchers therefore observed the diet of the pregnant women recruited for this study. They were classified according to their dietary profile, for example rich in processed or balanced foods, for the last three months of their pregnancy.
Result: the children of women who ate more fish and fruits and vegetables had better overall development and language scores at 1 year and 2 years than the other children. On the other hand, those who had the most unbalanced diet, with a lot of deli meats and other processed foods, the results were reversed. A finding that fades, however, when the child reaches the age of three and a half.
No social bias
“We can think that there is a social bias in this study, because food is also linked to the social category to which we belong and everyone knows that eating fish three times a week will be reserved for a certain social category. first notes Dr. Stéphane Clerget, child psychiatrist. But it is nothing.
Indeed, the study takes into account the socioeconomic level of the parents, their interactions with the child or the latter’s diet. In all cases, mothers whose diet had been of good quality during pregnancy had children with better neurodevelopment, regardless of how diet quality was assessed. An effect that fades from three and a half years. For the director of the ELFE study, Marie-Aline Charles, “one might think that the more time passes, the more other influences compensate or dilute the effect of the mother’s diet.”
No causal link established
The ELFE study, which is an observational study only, does not make it possible to evoke a causal link between the mother’s diet and the development of the child. But conversely,some studies have already shown that deficiencies can cause neurodevelopmental problems“recalls Dr. Stéphane Clerget. “The diet must be diversified to provide all the essential nutrients to the mother and her future baby, such as iron, found in red meat, calcium in dairy products, vitamin D, vitamin B9 in legumes. …“.
Finally, the specialist points out that natural vitamins, derived from food, are also to be preferred over food supplements because of their better absorption by the body.