Objective: Diet quality is related to the risk for depression and anxiety in adults and adolescents; however, the possible impact of maternal and early postnatal nutritional exposures on children's subsequent mental health is unexplored.
Method: The large prospective Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study recruited pregnant women between 1999 and 2008. Data were collected from mothers during pregnancy and when children were 6 months and 1.5, 3, and 5 years of age. Latent growth curve models were used to model linear development in children's internalizing and externalizing problems from 1.5 to 5 years of age as a function of diet quality during pregnancy and at 1.5 and 3 years. Diet quality was evaluated by dietary pattern extraction and characterized as "healthy" or "unhealthy." The sample comprised 23,020 eligible women and their children. Adjustments were made for variables including sex of the child, maternal depression, maternal and paternal age, maternal educational attainment, household income, maternal smoking before and during pregnancy, mothers' parental locus of control, and marital status.
Results: Higher intakes of unhealthy foods during pregnancy predicted externalizing problems among children, independently of other potential confounding factors and childhood diet. Children with a high level of unhealthy diet postnatally had higher levels of both internalizing and externalizing problems. Moreover, children with a low level of postnatal healthy diet also had higher levels of both internalizing and externalizing problems.
Conclusion: Among this large cohort of mothers and children, early nutritional exposures were independently related to the risk for behavioral and emotional problems in children.
Keywords: anxiety; depression; diet; externalizing; internalizing.
Copyright © 2013 American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.