Fruit is good for you—that much is certain. But it turns out that eating fruit could have a surprising benefit on your offspring, as well. A new study by the University of Alberta show that the benefits of exposure to fruit could begin as early as in the womb.
The results, which were published in the EbioMedicine journal, used data from a 3,500-subject study of Canadian infants and their families to draw the conclusion that fruit intake could be a key factor in the future development of a child's brain. "We wanted to know if we could identify what factors affect cognitive development," says Piush Manhane, senior author of the paper and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta. "We found that one of the biggest predictors of cognitive development was how much fruit moms consumed during pregnancy. The more fruits moms had, the higher their child's cognitive development," he adds.
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The study found that the children of mothers with the highest fruit consumption during pregnancy performed better on developmental tests at one year old. The tests used a traditional IQ scale as its model, where the average IQ is 100. On average, kids whose mothers ate six to seven servings of fruit per day during pregnancy scored six to seven points higher on IQ tests later in life.
"The longer a child is in the womb, the further they develop—and having one more serving of fruit per day in a mother's diet provides her baby with the same benefit born a whole week later," Mandhane says of the "substantial difference" the study uncovered.
According to professor Francois Bolduc, who partnered with Mandhane on the study, the potential benefits of fruit consumption on cognitive thinking has been shown in prior scientific research. For example, fruit flies have long been studied in the field of learning and memory, and Bolduc has previously found that flies born after being fed increased amounts of prenatal fruit juice exhibit enhanced memory abilities.
"Flies are very different from humans, but, surprisingly, they have 85 percent of the genes involved in human brain function," Bolduc says. "So we were extremely interested in understanding the correlation seen between increased prenatal fruit intake and higher cognition."
While Mandhane is enthusiastic about what these results could mean for future research on the relationship between fruit and cognition, he discourages mothers-to-be from going too crazy on the fruit front, as it could result in potential health issues—including diabetes—that have been connected with high prenatal levels of natural sugar intake. But certainly, as the research shows, an apple (or two) a day could contribute a good deal to your child's future brainpower.