What you eat during your pregnancy is very crucial in determining the health of the baby developing in your womb. If the findings of a latest study are to be believed, then the risk of a child developing symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could be modulated by the mother's diet during her pregnancy. The study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.
For the study, the team studied the samples of umbilical cord plasma to quantify the levels of omega-6 and omega-3 that reach the foetus. Higher omega-6: omega-3 ratio was found to be associated with a higher risk of the ADHD symptoms at seven years of age.
Omega-6 and omega-3 are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are very crucial in functioning of central nervous system, especially during later stages of gestation.These two fatty acids are primarily obtained through diet. But both of them have opposing physiological functions. Omega-6 promotes systemic pro-inflammatory states, omega-3 on the other hand promotes anti-inflammatory states. One needs to strike a balance between the two fatty acids.
Children with ADHD symptoms tend to have a higher omega-6: omega-3 ratio, according to previous studies. For the study, the authors studied data from 600 children living in four Spanish regions (Asturias, Basque Country, Catalonia, and Valencia) who are participating in the INMA Project.
The children's mothers were made to fill questionnaires, and also get their umbilical cord plasma samples analysed. The first questionnaire was completed by the children's teachers at the age of four years, and the second by their parents at the age of seven years.
The findings revealed that at the age of seven years, the number of ADHD symptoms increased by 13 per cent per each unit increase in the omega-6: omega-3 ratio in umbilical cord plasma.
The ratio of the two fatty acids was associated with the number of the ADHD symptoms present but not with the diagnosis of the disorder, and only in the assessment carried out at seven years of age. The authors suggest that the assessment carried out at four years of age may have been affected by a measurement error because the ADHD symptoms reported at early ages may be caused by a neurodevelopmental delay falling within the normal range.
"Our findings are in line with previous studies that established a relationship between the omega-6: omega-3 ratio in mothers and various early neurodevelopmental outcomes," commented Monica Lopez-Vicente, ISGlobal researcher and lead author of the study.
"Although the association was not clinically significant, our findings are important at the level of the population as a whole," noted Lopez-Vicente.
"If a large proportion of the population is exposed to a high omega-6: omega-3 ratio, the distribution for the ADHD symptom scores would likely move to the right and the prevalence of extreme values would increase, leading to a negative impact on the community's health costs and productivity," added Lopez-Vicente.
"This study adds more evidence to the growing body of research on the importance of maternal diet during pregnancy," commented Jordi Julvez, a co-author of the study.
"The nutrient supply during the earliest stages of life is essential in that it programs the structure and function of the organs, and this programming, in turn, has an impact on health at every stage of life. As the brain takes a long time to develop, it is particularly vulnerable to misprogramming. Alterations of this sort could, therefore, lead to neurodevelopmental disorders.
(With inputs ANI)