Maternal nutrition plays a key role in neurodevelopmental outcomes

In a study published in JAMA Network Open, researchers tested the hypothesis that structured interventions based on a Mediterranean diet during pregnancy could improve child neurodevelopment at two years of age.

The study consisted of a prespecified analysis of a parallel-group randomized clinical trial conducted at a university hospital in Barcelona. A total of 1,221 pregnancies with high risk of delivering newborns who were small for gestational age were randomly assigned to three groups: a Mediterranean diet intervention, a mindfulness-based stress reduction program, or usual pregnancy care per institutional protocols.

The dietary intervention consisted of monthly individual 30-minute assessments and monthly 1-hour group sessions, both provided by trained nutritionists, from recruitment (gestational age 19-23 weeks) until the end of the intervention (gestational age 34-36 weeks). Additionally, participants in the Mediterranean diet group were provided with 2 L of extra virgin olive oil and 450 g of walnuts every month at no cost.

At 24 months of age, 626 children (47% female and 53% male) underwent postnatal evaluation with the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, 3rd Edition (Bayley-III). Compared with children from the usual care group, children in the Mediterranean diet group had significantly higher Bayley scores in the cognitive and social-emotional domains. The researchers concluded that the walnut-enriched Mediterranean diet intervention significantly improved child neurodevelopment at age 2 years.

Crovetto, F., Nakaki, A., Arranz, A., Borras, R., Vellvé, K., Paules, C., Boutet, M. L., Castro-Barquero, S., Freitas, T., Casas, R., Martín-Asuero, A., Oller Guzmán, T., Morilla, I., Martínez-Àran, A., Camacho, A., Pasqual, M., Izquierdo Renau, M., Pozo, Ó. J., Gomez-Gomez, A., Estruch, R., … Gratacós, E. (2023). Effect of a Mediterranean Diet or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction During Pregnancy on Child Neurodevelopment: A Prespecified Analysis of the IMPACT BCN Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Network Open, 6(8), e2330255.

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