Eating fruit in pregnancy shown to affect brain development

A new study is showing the benefits of eating fruit in pregnancy.

Fresh fruit

New research shows the benefits of fruit can begin as early as in the womb.

The research, a cohort study published in the journal EbioMedicine, has found that children of mums who ate more fruit during pregnancy performed better on developmental testing at one year of age.

Author of the study, Professor Piush Mandhane at the University of Alberta's Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, used data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study--a nationwide birth cohort study involving over 3,500 Canadian infants and their families.

"We wanted to know if we could identify what factors affect cognitive development," Mandhane said. "We found that one of the biggest predictors of cognitive development was how much fruit mothers consumed during pregnancy. The more fruit moms had, the higher their child's cognitive development."

The study looked at data from 688 Edmonton children, and controlled for factors that would normally affect a child's learning and development such as family income, paternal and maternal education, and the gestational age of the child.

Using a traditional IQ scale as a model, the average IQ is 100 and the standard deviation is 15; two thirds of the population will fall between 85 and 115. Mandhane's study showed that if pregnant mothers ate six or seven servings of fruit or fruit juice a day, on average their infants placed six or seven points higher on the scale at one year of age - a substantial difference according to Mandhane.

Mandhane plans to continue work in the field, to see if the benefits of fruit consumption during pregnancy persist in children over time. He will also be looking to determine if fruit can influence childhood development related to executive functioning--in areas such as planning, organising and working memory.

Jane Brewin, CEO at Tommy's, said: 'The body of evidence supporting the massive effect of mum's diet in pregnancy on the long term health of the child is growing. Having a healthy diet in pregnancy key to the future health of the child.'

Read more about nutrition in pregnancy here.

Read more about Tommy's research into pregnancy health here.

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