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Eat Well for a Healthy Baby: Sugar and Fat Linked to ADHD in Children

Aug 22, 2016 12:05 AM EDT
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Limiting unhealthy fats and sugars during pregnancy will not only keep you feeling great and help your baby develop well, it could also decrease the change that your child will have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, often referred to as ADHD.

Development psychologist at Kings College London Edward Barker led a recent study testing the effects of a high fat and sugar diet on DNA. Barker and his team concluded that there is a direct link between an unhealthy prenatal diet and ADHD symptoms.

ADHD currently affects more than six million children, making it one of the most common childhood behavioral disorders. Something as simple as changing a mother's diet during pregnancy is a much better alternative than managing ADHD through medication.

"Our finding that poor prenatal nutrition was associated with higher IGF2 methylation highlights the critical importance of a healthy diet during pregnancy," Barker said in a public release. 

"Promoting a healthy prenatal diet may ultimately lower ADHD symptoms and conduct problems in children. This is encouraging given that nutritional and epigenetic risk factors can be altered."

A healthy prenatal diet consists of a variety of fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein and breads or grains. Fiber, vitamins and minerals are important during pregnancy.

The DNA of 164 people was analyzed, including 83 children who displayed conduct problem symptoms and 81 children who displayed lesser symptoms. Prenatal and postnatal amounts of fat and sugar in the children's diet were also analyzed.

IGF2 is a gene that plays a role in metabolism and brain development. A bad diet during pregnancy is correlated with a change in the expression of IGF2.

ADHD is not limited to a singular cause and further studies are needed to expand upon this research. While unhealthy diets during pregnancy and ADHD are linked, it cannot be definitively said that one causes the other.

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