Pregnancy and ADHD: Do Unhealthy Diets Hold the Clue?
Recent research led by a team of scientists and researchers from King’s College, based in London, and the University of Bristol have found an underlying link between high sugary diets and high-fat content which may increase the occurrence of symptoms related to ADHD in young children with conduct problems during the initial years of their life.
The study successfully demonstrates the epigenetic changes established at birth with a direct link to conduct complexities, unhealthy diets and ADHD. In the UK, children with conduct issues, such as fighting or lying, and ADHD are the leading causes of child mental health cases with more than 40 percent of the children diagnosed accounting for the condition.
The team highlights that prenatal experiences of poor nutrition or maternal distress could be the primary cause.
The recent study involved 83 children with conduct problems and another 81 children who had lower levels of conduct issues. The researchers further assessed mothers’ nutritional habits and their underlying link to epigenetic changes.
The team from Bristol and King’s found an existing link between prenatal diets that were comprised of high fats and sugary or processed foods and confectionary, were associated with high amounts of IGF2 methylation in young children with conduct problems compared with those who had lower to mild conductivity issues.
Higher IGF2 methyl is seen to have an underlying association with higher symptoms of ADHD and children with a history of conduct issues within the age group of 7 to 13 years. Dr. Edward Barker comments, “Our findings tend to associate poor prenatal nutritional conditions with higher amounts of IGF2 methylations, highlighting the importance of healthy diets during the complete cycle of pregnancy.”
The results suggest that promoting healthy prenatal diets ultimately lower ADHD symptoms and conductivity issues in young children. This is encouraging given the epigenetic and nutritional risk factors can be altered.
Dr. Barker explains, “There is a need to examine specific types of nutrition. For instance, types of fats such as omega 3 fatty acids, walnuts, chicken and from fish are seen to play a critical role in neural development.”
“We are already aware of nutritional supplements that can lead to lower ADHD and conductivity problems in children, thus it is equally important to pursue further research in this field to understand the role of epigenetic changes in the process,” concludes Dr. Barker.