More evidence of the ill effects of junk food on prenatal and early childhood health is hardly necessary, but a recent study conducted at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia provided just that. The study showed that diets rich in unhealthy foods led to a significantly increased risk of poor mental health in young children.
This, the largest cohort study in the world to date, showed that higher intakes of unhealthy food in pregnant women and their children during their first years of life were linked to higher levels of behavioral and emotional problems, including anxiety, depression, attention defecit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, and more in young children and teens.
Principal study investigator Felice Jacka, PhD, said these results held strong implications for the mental health of today's youth. "We've known for some time that very early life nutrition, including the nutrition received while the child is in utero, is related to physical health outcomes in children — their risk for later heart disease or diabetes, for example. But this is the first study indicating that diet may also be important to mental health outcomes in children," Jacka wrote.
It was noted that many of the children who ate unhealthy diets exhibited more of the behaviors that are established early markers for mental health problems, including aggression and tantrums.
Unhealthy diets were noted as those that included a high intake of processed meat products, refined cereals, sweet drinks, ans salty snacks, while healthy diets were characterized as those that included fruits, vegetables, high fiber cereals and vegetable oils.
Do your part to help prevent these disorders by eating the right foods and nutrients before and after pregnancy. Instill the right eating habits in your children and watch them develop into healthy, strong adults!