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Br J Nutr. 1998 May;79(5):407-12.

Diet during pregnancy and the risk of cerebral palsy.

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Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Athens University Medical School, Greece.


The role of maternal diet in the development of the fetal brain has not been adequately explored. Marine n-3 fatty acids have, however, been proposed to be important for brain development. The present case-control study aimed to investigate the relationship between dietary intake during pregnancy and the occurrence of cerebral palsy (CP) in the offspring. Children with CP (n 109), born between 1984 and 1988 to mothers residing in the Greater Athens area, were identified at any time in 1991 or 1992 through institutions delivering care and rehabilitation. Successful nutritional interviews were conducted with ninety-one of these children. Controls were chosen among the neighbours of the CP cases or were healthy siblings of children with neurological diseases other than CP, seen by the same neurologists as the children with CP. A total of 278 control children were chosen, and 246 of them were included in the nutritional study. Guardians of all children were interviewed in person on the basis of a questionnaire covering obstetric, perinatal socioeconomic and environmental variables. A validated semiquantitative food-frequency questionnaire of 111 food items was used to estimate maternal dietary intake during pregnancy. Statistical analysis was done by modelling the data through logistic regression. Food groups controlling for energy intake were alternatively and simultaneously introduced in a core model containing non-nutritional confounding variables. Consumption of cereals (mostly bread) and fish intake were inversely associated with CP (P < 0.05 and P < 0.09 respectively) whereas consumption of meat was associated with increased risk (P < 0.02). A protective effect of fish consumption and a detrimental effect of meat intake have been suggested on the basis of earlier work and appear to be biologically plausible. If corroborated by other studies, these results could contribute to our understanding of the nutritional influences on fetal brain development.

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