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Prenatal and postnatal exposure to an unhealthy diet is associated with behavioural and emotional problems in children

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Question: Is a child's mental health affected by the quality of the maternal diet during pregnancy and their own diet in the early years of life?

People: 23 020 women participating in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa). Self-report questionnaires were completed at 17 weeks of pregnancy, in the second trimester, and then when the children were 6 months, 18 months, 3 years and 5 years of age.

Setting: Norway; recruitment 1999–2008.

Risk factors: Maternal diet: assessed during the second trimester using a 255-food item Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ). Diets were classified as healthy (high consumption of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains) or unhealthy (high consumption of processed meat, refined cereals, high-salt snacks and sweet drinks). Child diet: Mothers completed a 36-item FFQ when the child was 18 months and 3 years of age. Diets were classified as healthy (frequent pattern of consumption of fish, vegetables, eggs, meat and bread) or unhealthy (frequent pattern of consumption of chips, cakes, ice cream and sweets). Analyses were adjusted for covariates of gender, maternal smoking, maternal education, maternal …

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  • Sources of funding Brain and Behaviour Research Institute.


  • Competing interests None.