Mothers who eat a diet full of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids increase the risk of ADHD symptoms in children
A mother’s diet during pregnancy can influence her child’s risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, a new study suggests.
Although women are often encouraged to eat foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids – such as nuts and soybeans – the study found that the risk of their children being inattentive and impulsive had increased by at least 13 percent.
Previous studies have shown that a mother who eats a diet full of nutrients, both before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy, can influence the metabolic health of a child.
However, the team from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) says that his study is one of the first to show how the food that an expectant mother chooses to eat can lead to neurological developmental disorders.
A new study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health found that pregnant women who ate a diet high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids increased the risk of ADHD symptoms by at least 13 percent (file image)
Omega-3 and omega-6 are so-called long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The body does not have the enzymes needed to produce them, so they are obtained through a diet from foods such as salmon, walnuts, cashews, soybeans and eggs.
Both are essential for maintaining a healthy central nervous system in the womb and beyond.
Because omega-6s promote inflammation and omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, experts believe that a healthy balance is needed.
Previous studies have shown that children with ADHD have increased proportions of both omega-6s and omega-3s, but why is unknown.
For the new study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, the team looked at 600 children who participated in the INMA project.
Run by different Spanish groups, the project studies environmental pollutants during pregnancy and the first year of life and analyzes the effects on the growth and development of children.
Researchers collected data from samples of umbilical cord plasma and questionnaires.
The team assessed ADHD symptoms – including inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness – with two questionnaires, one completed by the teachers of the children at the age of four and the other completed by the parents at the age of seven.
They discovered that a higher ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 in the umbilical cord samples at the age of seven meant a greater number of ADHD symptoms.
For each increase in the ratio, there was a 13 percent higher risk of symptoms.
However, a higher ratio of the two fatty acids was not linked to symptoms present at the age of four or to a diagnosis.
ADHD affects approximately 10 percent of children under the age of 18 in the US and is more common in boys than in girls.
Symptoms of ADHD usually start in childhood and can continue into adolescence and into adulthood.
There is no cure, so treatment currently consists of moderating symptoms through medication, therapy, training or a combination.
“Our findings are in line with previous studies that demonstrated an association between the omega-6, omega-3 ratio in mothers and various early neurological outcomes,” said lead author Dr. Monica López-Vicente, a researcher at ISGlobal.
“Although the association was not clinically significant, our findings are important at the level of the population as a whole.”
Several studies have shown the long-term effects of a woman can have a diet during pregnancy.
A study released last week from the Washington University School of Medicine discovered that mouse mothers who ate a high-fat, high-sugar diet during pregnancy increased the risk of heart problems in their children.
And a 2008 study from the Wellcome Trust discovered that an unhealthy diet during pregnancy increased the risk of obesity and high cholesterol.
“The supply of nutrients in the earliest stages of life is essential because it programs the structure and function of the organs, and this programming in turn influences health at every stage of life,” said co-author Dr. Jordi Júlvez, an assistant research professor at ISGlobal.
‘Because the brain needs a long time to develop, they are particularly vulnerable to incorrect programming. Such changes can therefore lead to neurological developmental disorders. “
Andrea Chernus of Chernus Nutrition in New York told DailyMail.com that she recommends that pregnant mothers get omega 3 from fish such as salmon and sardines.
“Fish with a shorter lifespan have less mercury during their lifetime,” she said.
She also recommends limiting the amount of omega-6 fatty acids that is common in processed foods and in oils such as soybean oil and corn oil.
Tammy Lakatos Shames, half of the Nutrition Twins, also recommends reducing the amount of omega-6s and getting more omega-3s in moderation.
“It is a good idea for pregnant women to take a good fish oil supplement because it had DHA, which is important for the health and development of the baby.”