Associations between Prenatal and Early Childhood Fish and Processed Food Intake, Conduct Problems, and Co-Occurring Difficulties.


Little is known about early life diet as a risk factor for early-onset persistent conduct problems (EOP CP). To investigate this, we used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a UK-based prospective epidemiological birth cohort. 5727 mother-child pairs (49.9 % boys) monitored since pregnancy (delivery date between 1 April, 1991 and 31 December, 1992) reported intake of fish and processed foods at 32 weeks gestation and, for the child, at 3 years; EOP (n = 666) and Low conduct problem (Low CP, n = 5061) trajectories were measured from 4 to 13 years; hyperactivity and emotional difficulties were assessed in childhood (4-10 years) and early adolescence (12-13 years), in addition to potential confounding factors (family adversity, birth complications, income). Compared to Low CP, mothers of EOP children consumed less fish (p < 0.01) and more processed food (p < 0.05) prenatally, while EOP children consumed more processed food at 3 years (p < 0.05). For EOP, but not Low CP children, consuming less than two servings/week of fish (vs. two or more servings/week, p < 0.05), and one or more servings/day of processed food (vs. less than one serving/day, p < 0.01), was associated with higher emotional difficulties in early adolescence. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that prenatal and postnatal diets high in processed food, and low in fish, associate with an EOP CP trajectory and co-occurring difficulties in early adolescence. As small effect size differences were found, further studies are needed to investigate the long-term impact of early unhealthy diet.