Nutrition during pregnancy plays a central role in the development of babies. It is known that severe maternal malnutrition or lack of certain nutrients (iron, iodine, etc.) is associated with poorer cognitive development in children. Similarly, a good quality diet during this period will have a favorable effect on children’s development, but this is less studied. The team led by Blandine de Lauzon-Guillain, director of research at the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm), looked at the relationship between the nutritional quality of the mother during pregnancy and the development of cognitive development, as part of Elfe. cohort, the first French longitudinal study at national level dedicated to the monitoring of 18,000 children born in 2011, from birth to adulthood, carried out by the National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) and Inserm.

In this work, presented on Thursday, October 6, the researchers collected what mothers eat during the last three months of pregnancy, after which the child’s neurodevelopment was evaluated by a questionnaire at 1 year and 2 years, then by an investigator during a face to face interview at the age of 3.5 years.

On the maternal side, the researchers first looked at the adequacy of pregnant women’s consumption with the nutritional recommendations, especially in terms of nutrient intake. Then they established five food profiles: “Western” (with a higher than average consumption of french fries, pizzas, red meat, charcuterie, pastries); “balanced” (fruit, vegetables, whole grain bread, legumes, yogurt); “bread and spreads” (bread, butter, chocolate, cheese, etc.); “Processed foods”; and “breakfast”, with a high consumption of milk, cereal…

“The socio-economic characteristics, the health of the mothers, the mother’s interaction with the child were also taken into account…”explains Blandine de Lauzon-Guillain, lead author of the study published in August i American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The impact of ultra-processed foods

Conclusion: “the more women have a good quality diet during pregnancy, the better the neurodevelopment scores after 1 year, 2 years and 3.5 years”, summarizes the researcher. Likewise, “the more fruit and vegetables and fish pregnant women consume, the better the child’s development scores up to 3.5 years”, adds Blandine de Lauzon-Guillain. Vise versa the nutritional profile of “processed food” or an excessive consumption of cold meats – the recommendations for the population are not to exceed 150 grams per week – are associated with poorer cognitive development.

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