Study: Being Overweight May Diminish Your Baby's Cognitive Potential
By Jeany Miller
Human intelligence is a tricky thing to define. It's a mass compendium of natural skills, reasoning capacity, and knowledge retention and it continues to grow and develop throughout our lives, based on a number of factors - including diet. Yes, diet!
When we eat a healthy diet, our caudate (the portion of the brain related to learning and memory) grows, increasing verbal IQ. Furthermore, it’s not just what we eat that affects IQ, but the relationship between diet and intelligence actually begins with a mother's diet while pregnant.
Prenatal Diet Affects Brain Potential
According to a new study reported online in the journal Pediatrics on December 10, 2012, infants whose mothers were overweight may have lower verbal and numerical skills, and these may be indicators of lower IQ scores. The results don't necessarily prove that a mother's obesity directly affects the decreased scores, but it certainly indicates that this could be a possibility. The onus is now on researchers to discover why exactly such a connection exists.
Why Should a Mother's Weight Affect Her Baby's Brain?
The theory offered by the study’s authors is that excess fat could be affecting the child's brain development while in the womb. Research conducted on animals suggests that this theory may hold water, but we're still uncertain as to whether or not this is also true for humans.
Furthermore, when the expectant mother is obese, this raises the odds for health problems for the pregnant woman including high blood pressure and diabetes, and these ailments could negatively impact the baby's brain. Recently, a Finnish study found that children born to mothers dealing with hypertension scored lower on certain intelligence tests than those whose mothers were of sound health. These results mirror the notion based on previous research that there is a definite correlation between preterm birth and low birth rate to lower adult IQ. However, the Finnish study takes this idea a little further by suggesting that high blood pressure is the culprit.
Diets High in Fatty Acids Boost Intelligence
Thankfully, there are things that an expectant mother can do through her diet to increase intelligence for her child later in life. There's evidence to support the idea that prenatal and early nutrition can also improve brain structure and behavior, which, obviously, also leads to higher intelligence. It's believed that prenatal diets with solid portions of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids can provide particular benefits. These fatty acids increase scores on intelligence tests for children between the ages of 4 and 7.
While scientists still aren’t sure how IQ is influenced by the latter, it is known that more firstborn children have become space-bound astronauts, U.S. presidents and Nobel Prize winners than kids with older siblings. And firstborn children, on average, score three points higher on IQ tests than their closest, next-born siblings.
There are many important factors that go into any successful full-term pregnancy and delivery, but the maintaining a healthy weight is absolutely essential. To do so, women should be sure to eat right, exercise, and refrain from smoking or being around second-hand smoke. After all, moms-to-be who take care of themselves are also taking care of their unborn babies.