Reduce ADHD, autism and dyslexia with a healthy diet and sunlight in pregnancy

Research suggests a healthy diet and adequate sunlight during pregnancy could help reduce the likelihood of bub developing learning difficulties.

Many parents worry about the possibility of ADHD, autism, dyslexia and other learning difficulties in their unborn child, especially with what appears to be a rise in the number of kids experiencing these conditions – not to mention a whole lot of hype about what is or isn't their cause.

It is true our knowledge and understanding still has a long way to go. However, research is indicating that there are a few things mum can do whilst baby is still in utero to stack the odds in her bubs favour - and they include feeling the sun on her skin and resisting that donut.

Farfetched as it sounds, one study in Scotland has found learning disabilities are more common in children conceived during winter months. Research linking health and education data collected between 2006 and 2011 from across Scotland was used to study more than 80,000 children.

The study found 8.9% of children conceived between January and March had learning disabilities such as autism and dyslexia, compared with 7.6% of those conceived between July and September. Researchers suggested the most plausible explanation for the trend is that there was insufficient sunlight for pregnant mothers to produce vitamin D.

It looks like it's worth hedging your bets and getting outdoors during daylight hours to absorb some vitamin D, as well as ensuring your diet contains some vitamin D rich food sources such as yoghurt, fatty fish, milk, beef, eggs and tofu.

Furthermore, another study in the UK may have discovered the biological mechanism behind the association between diet in pregnancy and ADHD symptoms. Prenatal diets high in fat and sugar were linked with higher DNA methylation of the insulin-like growth factor 2 gene, which is involved in fetal and neural development. Higher methylation of this gene at birth predicted ADHD symptoms in children aged 7 to 13 who had early onset behaviour problems such as lying or fighting.

Yes, these results could be viewed as yet another layer of pressure on pregnant women to reach for cauliflower over cake. But, as the researchers noted, this study highlights pregnancy as a promising window of opportunity for reducing the risk of ADHD symptoms and that's got to be a good thing for all worried parents to be.


American Journal of Epidemiology; online September 20

Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry; 18 August

Via The Medical Republic Oct 2015