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Eating Nuts During Pregnancy Tied to Brain Benefits in Baby

Children of mothers who ate 2 to 3 ounces of nuts a week during pregnancy tended to score higher on tests of memory, attention and I.Q.

Nicholas Bakalar, The New York Times, May 7, 2019

Eating nuts during pregnancy may lead to improved cognitive ability in children, Spanish researchers report.

Their study, in the European Journal of Epidemiology, included 2,208 children. Mothers filled out food questionnaires during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy, and researchers administered tests of motor and intellectual ability when the children were 1 and a half, 5 and 8 years old.

They found that while a third of the women ate no nuts at all, the children of women in the highest one-third for nut consumption - an average of 74 grams, or 2.6 ounces, of nuts a week - scored significantly higher over all on tests of sustained attention, working memory and I.Q. than those of mothers who ate less.

The study controlled for maternal age, socioeconomic status, smoking and alcohol consumption and many other characteristics of the mothers and babies.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists approves of nuts during pregnancy for their protein content but makes no claims about their effect on neurodevelopment.

"This is the first time we have seen this effect, and it is not enough information to change guidelines," said the senior author, Jordi Julvez, a researcher at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health. "We need to replicate these results in other populations. Still, I would recommend that women eat nuts at least three times a week, especially almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts."

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