Moms-to-be take all sorts of measures to protect the health of their unborn baby, from cutting out alcohol and sushi to popping prenatal vitamins. But could eating more fruit during pregnancy actually create a smarter child?
A new study suggests so. Researchers at the University of Alberta found that mothers who consumed more fruit during pregnancy gave birth to children who performed better on developmental testing at one year of age.
Six or seven servings
Interested to see what factors affect a child’s cognitive development, lead author Piush Mandhane used data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study. Mandhane and his team found that a mom’s fruit intake during pregnancy had a big influence on a child’s IQ.
"The more fruit moms had, the higher their child's cognitive development,” said Mundhane of the study, which examined data from 688 Edmonton children.
Pregnant women who ate six or seven servings of fruit or fruit juice a day gave birth to babies who placed six or seven points higher on the IQ scale at age one.
"It's quite a substantial difference -- that's half of a standard deviation," Mandhane said in a statement. "We know that the longer a child is in the womb, the further they develop--and having one more serving of fruit per day in a mother's diet provides her baby with the same benefit as being born a whole week later."
Same effect in fruit flies
Subsequent experiments attempted to build upon these findings by looking at the way prenatal fruit intake affects fruit flies.
Mundhane teamed up with Francois Bolduc, a researcher of the genetic basis of cognition in humans and fruit flies, to further examine the effects. Similar to the effect in human babies, Buldoc discovered that fruit flies born after being fed increased prenatal fruit juice had significantly better memory ability.
But even in light of these findings, Mundhane cautions against overdoing it in the fruit department. Researchers say too much fruit could create complications such as gestational diabetes and high birthweight, so consult your doctor before filling up on sugary fruit.
The study is published in the journal EbioMedicine.