BookmarkBookmarkTick

Prenatal Nutrition Has Long-Term Effects on Baby’s Development: Here’s What To Eat

ByKylie McConville
Updated
March 2, 2017
Hero Image
Image: Veer / The Bump

Researchers from the NUTRIMENTHE project (a research project funded by the European Commission that involves researchers from more than 20 different organizations aiming to educate moms on the mental role that specific nutrients and food components have on a child’s development) found that prenatal nutrition programs the long-term health, well-being, brain development and mental performance of children.

The project, in its fifth year, have addressed the influence of prenatal nutrition by studying hundreds of European families. Professor Cristina Campoy, lead researcher for the project, described the need for a long-term study because shorter-term research seem “unable to detect the real influence of nutrition in early life.” She added, “NUTRIMENTHE was designed to be a long-term study, as the brain takes a long time to mature, and early deficiencies may have far-reaching effects. So, early nutrition is most important.”

So far, they’ve examined the effect of B-vitamins, folic acid, breast milk (compared to formula), iron, iodine and omega-3 fatty acids on the cognitive, emotional and behavioral development of children from before birth up to age nine.

Researchers have found that folic acid can reduce the likelihood of behavioral issues during early childhood. They’ve also found that oily fish is also very beneficial — not only for the omega-3 fatty acids but also for the iodine content — because it has a positive effect on a child’s ability to read when measured at the age of nine. NUTRIMENTHE researchers also found that parental education level, socioeconomic status and age are all major influences on a child’s mental performance because they influence how certain nutrients are processed and transferred during both pregnancy and if a mother breastfeeds.

Campoy said, “It is important to try to have good nutrition during pregnancy and in the early life of the child and to include breastfeeding if possible, as such ‘good nutrition’ can have a positive effect on mental performance later in childhood. However,” she said, “in the case of genetics, future studies should include research on genetic variation in mothers and children so that the optimum advice can be given. This area is relatively new and will be challenging!”

Related Video

As the NUTRIMENTHE research is ongoing, the results of the most recent study will contribute to the scientific dietary recommendations for pregnant women and children in order to improve their mental performance.

Looking to get the most out of your prenatal nutrients?:

Which foods help soothe your symptoms and keep you feeling great?:

Which foods should you avoid?:

Not sure what to eat? Start here:

Do you think it’s important to eat well during your pregnancy to aid in baby’s development?

Whole wheat pasta with vegetables on a dinner plate.

These Two Minerals May Reduce Baby’s Risk of Hypertension, Study Says

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
07/14/2021
Pregnant woman in the kitchen with her partner eating a healthy breakfast.

These Three Lifestyle Factors Lower Risk of Preterm Birth by 70 Percent

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
05/26/2021
pregnant woman looking at tablet in her kitchen

So Long Seafood? Debunking Myths About Eating Fish During Pregnancy

profile picture of Allison Webster, PhD, RD
Allison Webster, PhD, RD
International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation
place setting for one with gold accents

6 Holiday Food Rules to Follow When Pregnant

profile picture of Erin van Vuuren and Lauren A. Greene
Erin van Vuuren and Lauren A. Greene
water in mason jars infused with fruit like lemon and raspberries

7 Natural Pregnancy Energy Boosters

profile picture of Meredith Franco Meyers
Meredith Franco Meyers
Contributing Writer
man cooking over stove in kitchen

Eating This Food During Pregnancy Can Boost Your Kid’s Attention Span

profile picture of Laurie Ulster
Laurie Ulster
Contributing Writer
Published
10/03/2019
folic acid supplement recommended for pregnant women

Yet Another Reason to Take Folic Acid: It’s Good for Your Baby’s Mental Health

profile picture of Ashley Edwards Walker
Ashley Edwards Walker
Contributing Writer
Published
07/05/2018
hand stirring straw in soda which has added sugar

The Important Reason to Lay Off Sugar (but Not Fruit!) During Pregnancy

profile picture of Anisa Arsenault
Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
04/20/2018
Article removed.