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Early-life nutrition is critical for optimal brain development; however, few studies have evaluated the impact of diet as a whole in early childhood on neurological development with inconsistent results. The present analysis is a cross-sectional study nested within an ongoing prospective birth cohort, the Rhea study, and aims to examine the association of dietary patterns with cognitive and psychomotor development in 804 preschool (mean age 4·2 years) children. Parents completed a validated FFQ, and dietary patterns were identified using principal component analysis. Child cognitive and psychomotor development was assessed by the McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities (MSCA). Multivariable linear regression models were used to investigate the associations of dietary patterns with the MSCA scales. After adjustment for a large number of confounding factors, the ‘Snacky’ pattern (potatoes and other starchy roots, salty snacks, sugar products and eggs) was negatively associated with the scales of verbal ability (β=−1·31; 95 % CI −2·47, −0·16), general cognitive ability (β=−1·13; 95 % CI −2·25, −0·02) and cognitive functions of the posterior cortex (β=−1·20; 95 % CI −2·34, −0·07). Further adjustment for maternal intelligence, folic acid supplementation and alcohol use during pregnancy attenuated the observed associations, but effect estimates remained at the same direction. The ‘Western’ and the ‘Mediterranean’ patterns were not associated with child neurodevelopmental scales. The present findings suggest that poorer food choices at preschool age characterised by foods high in fat, salt and sugar are associated with reduced scores in verbal and cognitive ability.
To investigate whether high doses of folic acid supplementation in early pregnancy are associated with child neurodevelopment at 18 months of age.
The study uses data from the prospective mother–child cohort ‘Rhea’ study. Pregnant women completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire on folic acid supplementation at 14–18 weeks of gestation. Neurodevelopment at 18 months was assessed with the use of the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development (3rd edition). Red-blood-cell folate concentrations in cord blood were measured in a sub-sample of the study population (n 58).
Heraklion, Crete, Greece, 2007–2010.
Five hundred and fifty-three mother–child pairs participating in the ‘Rhea’ cohort.
Sixty-eight per cent of the study participants reported high doses of supplemental folic acid use (5 mg/d), while 24 % reported excessive doses of folic acid (>5 mg/d) in early pregnancy. Compared with non-users, daily intake of 5 mg supplemental folic acid was associated with a 5-unit increase on the scale of receptive communication and a 3·5-unit increase on the scale of expressive communication. Doses of folic acid supplementation higher than 5 mg/d were not associated with additional increase in the neurodevelopmental scales.
This is the first prospective study showing that high doses of supplementary folic acid in early pregnancy may be associated with enhanced vocabulary development, communicational skills and verbal comprehension at 18 months of age. Additional longitudinal studies and trials are needed to confirm these results.
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