Research: PETRIDOU and colleagues,

Listed in Issue 40


PETRIDOU and colleagues, Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Athens University Medical School, Greece. write that the role of maternal diet in the development of the foetal brain has not been adequately explored, but that marine n-3 fatty acids have been proposed to be important for brain development. The authors conducted a case-control study to investigate the relationship between dietary intake during pregnancy and occurrence of cerebral palsy (CP) in infants.



109 children with CP, born between 1984 and 1988 to mothers living in Athens, were identified. Nutritional interviews were conducted with 91 children. Controls were chosen from neighbours of the CP cases or were healthy siblings of children with neurological diseases other than CP, seen by the same neurologists as the CP children. A total of 278 control children were selected; 246 were included in the nutritional study. The guardians of all children were interviewed using 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 performed via 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 (mainly bread) and fish intake were inversely associated with CP, whereas consumption of meat was associated with increased risk.


The 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. These results may contribute to our understanding of the nutritional influences upon foetal brain development, if corroborated by further research studies.


Petridou E et al Diet during pregnancy and the risk of cerebral palsy Br J Nutr 79(5): 407-12 May 1998.

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