As if pregnant women don’t have enough reasons to feel guilty, a new study from Leiden University in The Netherlands and King’s College London concludes that diets high in fat and sugar during pregnancy could increase a child’s risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The researchers compared 83 British children between the ages of 7- and 13-years-old with conduct problems to 81 relatively well-behaved children. During pregnancy, the children’s mothers had filled out questionnaires regarding dietary intakes. The researchers then assessed functioning of the children’s IGF2 gene, a gene variant that steers fetal development of brain regions previously linked to ADHD, and compared those findings with maternal dietary intake. Results showed that a high-fat, high-sugar diet consumed during pregnancy was associated with a higher risk of alterations in the IGF2 gene in children with behavioral problems associated with ADHD. The researchers warn that further research is needed, since ADHD can be genetically passed down from parent to child. These children might have inherited their ADHD, with the diet being a symptom of the mother’s behavior, not a cause of the child’s behavior problems.
Elizabeth Somer, M.A.,R.D.
Rijlaarsdam J, Cecil C, Walton E, et al: Prenatal unhealthy diet, insulin-like growth factor 2 gene (IGF2) methylation, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms in youth with early-onset conduct problems. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2016; August 18th.