Study: Diet in Early Life Can Influence Child Mental Health and Personality
Mother’s diet during the antenatal phase and children’s food consumption in the early stages of development shares a relationship with their mental health and personality.
Growth and development phase from conception until 2 years is critical for physiological and brain development. This stage also underpins socio-emotional growth and personality development. Adequate nutrition including iodine, iron, and long-chain fatty acids is necessary for normal brain development and inadequate supply may cause cognitive or motor delay.
A study investigated whether nutritious dietary patterns during the antenatal and early childhood period can be associated with childhood symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as personality traits.
Based on the results, parents reported a reduction in the scoring of the depression scale followed by adherence to the new nordic diet (NDD) during pregnancy which comprises fruits, root vegetables, cabbages, potatoes, oatmeal, milk, and whole grain breads among others.
Further, adherence to a nutritious diet was positively associated with cognitive development up to five years and reduced risk of cognitive developmental delay. The score of NDD was also found to be positively linked with birthweight and protectively associated with preeclampsia and preterm delivery risk
Lower risk of ADHD diagnosis, better verbal intelligence and executive functioning, and slight reduction in offspring ADHD symptoms were also associated with the quality of diet.
Diet at age 3 and 7 years was more profoundly linked with anxiety and depression compared to early ages. Such association works on the basis of the availability of nutrients and antioxidants in blood circulation during the developmental period.
Nutritious and sustainable diet during pregnancy was found to be indirectly associated with higher scores on conscientiousness, extraversion, benevolence, and imagination and low scores on neuroticism. Other researchers quoted within the study identified that a healthy diet shares a correlation with easy temperament.
Such research studies remind us to place heavy emphasis on regulating dietary patterns, particularly during pregnancy and early development of the child. As the child grows, the development of preference for specific foods might become prevalent. Such preferences should be balanced out on the basis of the overall diet.
In yogic culture, sattvic, tamasic and rajasic dietary patterns are associated with temperament. Rajasic diet includes excessively spicy, salty, and sour foods, pungent veggies, preserved food alcoholic beverages, garlic, and onions etc. which stimulate the body and mind causing hyperactivity, irritability, anger, and sleeplessness. Tamasic diet comprising white flour, hard liquor, stale, reheated food, excessive sugar, fats, and oils etc. can make the mind dull, bring in inertia and can also aggravate aggressive qualities. Lastly, sattvic diet is light and easy to digest. Raw and fresh food including fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts, milk and curd, rice, wheat, and legumes improve health and energy. It also harmonizes the mind.
Limiting the significance of food and nutrition to physical growth undermines the vital role it plays in personality and psychological development. Understanding the impact of foods consumed can help in monitoring the dietary habits being formed at an early stage of children’s life.
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