92. Maternal pregnancy diet, postnatal home environment and executive function and behavior in 3-to 4-y-olds (lay summary)

Mortaji N, Krzeczkowski JE, Boylan K, Booij L, Perreault M, Van Lieshout RJ. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Jun 22:nqab202. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqab202

Ideal maternal nutrition during pregnancy has been linked to better cognitive and behavioral development in children. However, whether ideal nutrition can benefit the child’s behavioral development when there is reduced stimulation and support in the home is not known.

The goal of this study was to examine the effect of maternal diet during pregnancy on executive function and/or behavioral development in children living in suboptimal home environments.  Executive function refers to skills required to plan ahead, meet goals, display self-control and stay focused despite distractions.

This study used data from 808 mother-child pairs from the MIREC Study.  Dietary information was obtained by questionnaire from each woman during pregnancy.  This information was transformed into a Healthy Eating Index. Stimulation and support in the home was assessed using the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME) when children were 3-4 y old. Child executive function was reported by mothers at this age using the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning-Preschool Edition, and child behavior was assessed using the Behavior Assessment System for Children-2nd Edition. Researchers examined whether the influence of maternal pregnancy diet on children’s executive function and behavior differed according to levels of the postnatal HOME scores.

This study found that maternal diet was associated with an increasingly positive association with child working memory, planning, and adaptability as levels of postnatal stimulation decreased. These results suggest that overall maternal pregnancy diet could promote child neurodevelopment in families who face barriers to providing stimulation and support to children in their home.

This research was led by graduate students at McMaster University.