Mothers who eat more nuts during pregnancy have children with higher IQs, new research finds.
Eating around three 30g servings per week of all types of nuts was linked to higher cognitive function in children.
The scientists believe that nuts provide essential fatty acids that are crucial to brain development.
The fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, accumulate in the brain of the growing fetus.
The link was only found for mothers who ate the nuts in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The study included 2,208 mothers and children who were followed from pregnancy.
Mothers were asked about their eating habits and the children were given standard tests of cognitive function.
The results showed that mothers who ate more nuts had children with better cognitive skills, such as memory and attention.
However, even those who ate high levels of nuts were still below recommended amounts, suggesting the benefits are potentially even higher.
Ms Florence Gignac the study’s first author, said:
“The nuts we took into account in this study were walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pine nuts and hazelnuts.
We think that the beneficial effects observed might be due to the fact that the nuts provided high levels of folic acid and, in particular, essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6.
These components tend to accumulate in neural tissue, particularly in the frontal areas of the brain, which influence memory and executive functions.”
The study is the first to find a link between consuming nuts in pregnancy and cognitive development in the child.
However, it is not yet clear why the link only exists in the first trimester.
Dr Jordi Júlvez, study co-author, said:
“This is not the first time we have observed more marked effects when an exposure occurs at a specific stage of the pregnancy.
While our study does not explain the causes of the difference between the first and third trimesters, the scientific literature speculates that the rhythm of fetal development varies throughout the pregnancy and that there are periods when development is particularly sensitive to maternal diet.”
The study was published in the European Journal of Epidemiology (Gignac et al., 2019).