Toronto: Moms-to-be, take note! Women who eat more fruits during pregnancy may give birth to smarter children, a new study has claimed.
Researchers found that mothers who consumed more fruit during pregnancy gave birth to children who performed better on developmental testing at one year of age.
“We found that one of the biggest predictors of cognitive development was how much fruit moms consumed during pregnancy,” said Piush Mandhane from University of Alberta in Canada.
“The more fruit moms had, the higher their child’s cognitive development,” said Mandhane.
The study examined data from 688 children, and controlled for factors that would normally affect a child’s learning and development such as family income, paternal and maternal education, and the gestational age of the child.
Using a traditional IQ scale as a model, the average IQ is 100 and the standard deviation is 15; two thirds of the population will fall between 85 and 115, researchers said.
The study showed that if pregnant mothers ate six or seven servings of fruit or fruit juice a day, on average their infants placed six or seven points higher on the scale at one year of age, they said.
“It is quite a substantial difference – that is half of a standard deviation,” said Mandhane. “We know that the longer a child is in the womb, the further they develop – and having one more serving of fruit per day in a mother’s diet provides her baby with the same benefit as being born a whole week late,” he said.
To further build on the research, Mandhane teamed with Francois Bolduc from Alberta University, who researches the genetic basis of cognition in humans and fruit flies.
“Flies are very different from humans but, surprisingly, they have 85 per cent of the genes involved in human brain function, making them a great model to study the genetics of memory,” said Bolduc.
“To be able to improve memory in individuals without genetic mutation is exceptional, so we were extremely interested in understanding the correlation seen between increased prenatal fruit intake and higher cognition,” he said.
Bolduc showed that flies born after being fed increased prenatal fruit juice had significantly better memory ability, similar to the results shown by Mandhane with one-year-old infants.
The findings were published in the journal EbioMedicine.