Women who eat more fruit when they are pregnant have more intelligent children, according to research published in the online journal EBioMedicine.
The study, by child development experts in Canada, involved testing the intelligence of 808 children at one year old, and cross comparing these results with records of the mother’s fruit consumption during pregnancy.
Every portion of fruit eaten per day improved test results by 2.38 points on average.
The researchers also found that the amount of fruit in the child’s diet made no difference to intelligence, nor did the mother’s fibre, calorie and omega-3 intake.
The researchers behind the study did similar tests on fruit flies, with similar results. They say that the effect observed could be the result of a ‘cyclic adenylate monophosphate pathway’ — a regulator hormone — found in humans and fruit flies.
The study’s lead author said: ‘Mothers who ate more fruit during pregnancy had children who did better on developmental testing at one year of age. Similarly, fruit flies had improved learning and memory if their parents had more fruit juice in their diet.
‘In both humans and in the flies, there was no improvement in learning when only the babies were fed fruit. The cyclic adenylate monophosphate (cAMP) pathway may be a major regulator of this effect.’
Cognitive development was tested one year after birth and found to be associated with a higher maternal consumption of fruit during pregnancy. Additional developmental parameters were also assessed and found to be positively affected by higher fruit consumption.
No correlation was seen between higher scores and higher socioeconomic status — an interesting finding as the assumed link between higher socioeconomic statue and higher consumption of fruit and vegetables might have been a more compelling explanation for the results.
There is, however, poor correlation between development at one year and at three years, so the results, while promising, do not necessarily mean that eating more fruit will result in babies destined for Oxbridge or the Ivy League.
Take-home message: higher fruit consumption in pregnancy has positive short-term effects on babies; mothers with any form of diabetes or even obesity should not increase fruit consumption without medical advice.
Research score: 3/5