Pregnant women who eat nuts are more likely to have intelligent children, a new study has revealed.
Researchers from the Barcelona Institute of Global Health found that attention span, working memory and cognitive function are higher in children whose mothers ate more nuts during the first trimester of pregnancy.
In the study, the team looked at the diets of 2,200 pregnant women, as well as the brain development of their children at age 18 months, five years and eight years.
Florence Gignac, an author of the study, said: “This is the first study to explore the possible benefits of eating nuts during pregnancy for the child's neuro-development in the long term.
"The brain undergoes a series of complex processes during gestation and this means that maternal nutrition is a determining factor in foetal brain development and can have long-term effects."
"The nuts we took into account in this study were walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pine nuts and hazelnuts.
"We think that the beneficial effects observed might be due to the fact that the nuts provided high levels of folic acid and, in particular, essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6.
"These components tend to accumulate in neural tissue, particularly in the frontal areas of the brain, which influence memory and executive functions."
The benefits described in the study were observed in the group of mothers who reported the highest consumption of nuts - a weekly average of just under three 30g servings.
This is slightly lower than the average weekly consumption recommended in the healthy eating guide published by the Spanish Society of Community Nutrition, which is between three and seven servings per week.
Estimated nut consumption in Spain is more than double the European average.
The study also analysed the mothers' nut consumption during the third trimester of their pregnancy, but in this case either no link or a weaker link with improved neuropsychological development were found.
Researchers said they think this could be because the rhythm of foetal development varies throughout the pregnancy and there are periods when development is particularly sensitive to maternal diet.
But they added that, as this is the first study to explore this effect, the results must be treated with caution until more studies are carried out.
The study was led by ISGlobal and the report, titled Maternal Nut Intake In Pregnancy And Child Neuropsychological Development Up To 8 Years Old: A Population-based Cohort Study In Spain, published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.