In May 2019, the Barcelona Institute for Global Health published a study that stated that if a mother included nuts in her diet in the first trimester of pregnancy, this resulted in an increase in the child´s mental ability, concentration levels and long-term memory. Nuts are already known to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, oxidative stress and diabetes. Nuts also protect against deterioration in mental capacity in old age. The finding that the mental capacity of a child is improved if its mother consumes nuts during the pregnancy is new.
The study was carried out in Spain, on 2,200 mothers and their children. The mothers received questionnaires on their eating habits and nut consumption during their pregnancies. The mental development of the children was measured using several standardised tests when the children were at the age of 18 months, 5 years and 8 years. Analysis of the results showed that the groups of children whose mothers had consumed a high quantity of nuts during the first three months of their pregnancy had the best test results for mental function, concentration and long-term memory. “During pregnancy, the foetal brain goes through a sequence of complex processes, which means that the mother’s diet is a crucial factor in the development of the baby’s brain and has a long-term impact on it”, explained the researcher who carried out this study.
Walnuts, peanuts, almonds, pine nuts and hazelnuts were all considered. According to the researchers, the observed positive effects could be due to the fact that nuts are rich in folic acid and essential fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6. These nutrients work on the neural tissue, particularly in the frontal lobe of the brain, which can influence memory and mental performance. The advantages described in this study were observed in the group of mothers that consumed the highest amount of nuts, with that being around 90 grams per week.
The study also analysed nut consumption in mothers in the last trimester of pregnancy. However, they did not observe the same positive effects. “Baby development varies throughout a pregnancy and there are stages during which development is particularly reactive to the mother’s diet”, explained the researchers.
Gignac F et al.:Maternal nut intake in pregnancy and child neuropsychological development up to 8 years old: A population-based cohort study in Spain. European Journal of Epidemiology, 2019 DOI: 10.1007/s10654-019-00521-6