Monday, August 26, 2013

Poor Diet Can Take Toll on Children's Mental Health, Study Finds

An unhealthy diet during pregnancy and the early years of a child's life can adversely affect that child's mental health, a large long-term prospective study of about 23,000 mothers and their offspring suggests. The study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, was headed by Felice Jacka, Ph.D., director of the Division of Nutritional Psychiatry Research at Deakin University in Australia and funded by the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.

Data about the mothers' diets were collected from them when they were pregnant. Once their children were born, the children were evaluated at ages 6 months and 1.5, 3, and 5 years at which times researchers assessed internalizing and externalizing problems. Even when possible confounding factors were considered, the mothers who had higher intakes of unhealthy foods during pregnancy were more likely to have children with behavior problems, such as tantrums and aggression, than mothers who had higher intakes of healthy foods during pregnancy. In addition, the children's diets at 18 months and 3 years were also evaluated, and those with unhealthy diets were more likely to experience not just behavior problems, but also internalizing problems such as anxiety and depression, than were children eating healthy diets.

To read more about the role of diet in children's mental health, see the Psychiatric News articles "Choline May Protect Infants From Developing Schizophrenia" and "When Parents Focus on Weight, Kids' Eating Disorder Risk Rises."

(Image: Vinicius Tupinamba/


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