Children born to mothers who consume less fiber during pregnancy are more likely to experience neurodevelopmental delays. The corresponding study was published in Frontiers in Nutrition.
Environmental factors such as nutrition, stress, and chemical exposure have a significant impact on child development. Studies, for example, show that maternal stress, which elevates levels of the stress hormone cortisol, negatively affects offspring cognition, health, and education attainment. Studies also show that consuming adequate levels of folic acid during pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects in the brain and spine by 70%.
While animal studies have reported that fiber plays a vital role in infant development, how maternal fiber intake may affect developing human offspring remains relatively unexplored. To explore this area further, the researchers behind the present study investigated whether maternal dietary fiber during pregnancy is linked to child developmental delays at the age of three years old.
To do so, they analyzed data from 76, 207 mother-infant pairs from Japan. Maternal diet was assessed using the food frequency questionnaire during mid-pregnancy, while developmental data was assessed via a questionnaire. Ultimately, the researchers found that children born to mothers with the lowest intake of dietary fiber had a higher risk of delayed communication, fine motor skills, problem-solving skills, and personal-social skills than infants born to mothers who consumed the most fiber.
The researchers concluded that their findings show that maternal dietary fiber deficiency during pregnancy may increase the risk of neurodevelopmental delay in infants. They added that their results demonstrate how nutritional guidance for pregnant mothers is crucial for reducing the risk of health problems in children. They noted, however, that their study has limitations as they cannot rule out the possibility of other nutrients interacting with their results, and that they were unable to study the effects of fiber intake from supplements.