Food and Behaviour Research

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Diet in Early Life Is Related to Child Mental Health and Personality at 8 Years: Findings from the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa)

Vejrup K, Hillesund E, Agnihotri N, Helle C, √ėverby N (2023) Nutrients    

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There is rising concern about population mental health. Personality and mental health traits manifest early. Sufficient nutrition is fundamental to early development. However, little is known about early life dietary impact on later mental health.

The aim of this study was to investigate associations of exposure to a healthy and sustainable antenatal and early childhood diet with personality traits and symptoms of depression and anxiety measured at 8 years of age.

This study is based on the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) and uses data from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway (MBRN) including 40,566 participants. Mental health measures and personality traits were assessed at 8 years. Dietary data from pregnancy, child age 6 and 18 months and 3 and 7 years were used.

With few exceptions, inverse associations were observed between healthier diet at all time points and depression and anxiety symptom scores at age 8. We found positive associations between diet scores at almost all time points and extraversion, benevolence, conscientiousness and imagination. Inverse associations were observed between diet scores and neuroticism.

Combined, these findings underpin a probable impact of both maternal pregnancy diet and early childhood diet on several aspects of child mental health.


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