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Eating fruit while pregnant helps baby's cognitive development, study says

Researchers caution the study did not consider the potential side effects of increased natural sugars, such as gestational diabetes and high birth weight.

By
Stephen Feller
Women who ate six or seven servings of fruit per day during pregnancy had children who scored six or seven points higher on IQ tests at one year old, report researchers at the University of Alberta. Photo by Ermolaev Alexander/Shutterstock
Women who ate six or seven servings of fruit per day during pregnancy had children who scored six or seven points higher on IQ tests at one year old, report researchers at the University of Alberta. Photo by Ermolaev Alexander/Shutterstock

EDMONTON, Alberta, May 26 (UPI) -- The children of mothers who ate more fruit during pregnancy had better cognitive development a year after birth, according to a study of Canadian one-year-olds.

Researchers at the University of Alberta found children whose mothers consumed higher levels of fruit fared better on tests of learning and development, after considering for parental factors and gestational age of the child.

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While there has not been much research on the effects of increasing natural sugars, such as the potential for gestational diabetes and high birth weight, the researchers say the effect of eating more fruit on test scores was significant.

"It's quite a substantial difference," Dr. Piush Mandhane, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta, said in a press release. "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."

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For the study, published in EBioMedicine, the researchers analyzed data on 688 one-year-old children collected as part of the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development study, and considered the amount of fruit their mothers consumed during pregnancy, gestational age at birth, parental lifestyle factors, including income and education, and cognitive tests given to the children.

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Two-thirds of the population fall between 85 and 115 on the traditional IQ scale, with the average at about 100. The researchers found if pregnant mothers ate six or seven servings of fruit or fruit juice per day, their children scored six or seven points higher on IQ tests at one year old.

Future research will look for longer-term benefits of increased fruit consumption during pregnancy beyond one year of life, as well as whether higher intake of fruit affects development of other parts of the brain, the researchers say.

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"We wanted to know if we could identify what factors affect cognitive development," Mandhane said. "We found that one of the biggest predictors of cognitive development was how much fruit moms consumed during pregnancy. The more fruit moms had, the higher their child's cognitive development."

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