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Poor nutrition during pregnancy and lactation negatively affects neurodevelopment of the offspring: evidence from a translational primate model

Keenan, Kate, Bartlett, Thad Q, Nijland, Mark, Rodriguez, Jesse S, Nathanielsz, Peter W, Zürcher, Nicole R
TheAmerican journal of clinical nutrition 2013 v.98 no.2 pp. 396-402
Papio, behavior problems, childhood, clinical nutrition, diet, folic acid, humans, lactation, maternal nutrition, models, neural tube defects, neurodevelopment, pregnancy, progeny, risk factors
Background: Studies of the effects of prenatal nutrition on neurodevelopment in humans are complicated because poor nutrition occurs in the context of psychosocial stressors and other risk factors associated with poor developmental outcomes.Objective: Under controlled experimental conditions, we tested an effect of prenatal nutrition on neurodevelopmental outcomes in the nonhuman primate.Design: Juvenile offspring of 19 female baboons, whose diets were either restricted [maternal nutrition restriction (MNR)] or who were fed ad libitum (control), were administered the progressive ratio task from the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery. Activity, persistence, attention, and emotional arousal were coded from videotapes. These established, reliable methods were consistent with those used to assess individual differences in the behaviors of school-age children.Results: MNR offspring (3 female and 4 male offspring) had significantly fewer responses and received fewer reinforcements on the progressive ratio task than did control offspring (8 female and 4 male offspring). MNR offspring showed a more variable activity level and less emotional arousal than did control offspring. Female MNR offspring showed more variable and lower levels of persistence and attention than did female control offspring. Thus, under controlled experimental conditions, data support a main effect of prenatal nutrition on highly translatable neurodevelopmental outcomes.Conclusions: Nutritional interventions during pregnancy have been successfully used to target neurodevelopmental problems, such as increasing folic acid intake during pregnancy to decrease the incidence of neural tube defects. Results from the current study can be used to support the testing of nutritional preventive interventions for the most-common childhood behavior problems.