Eating vegetable oils, nuts and seeds during pregnancy may reduce autism risk

A study from the Harvard School of Public Health said pregnant women who eat omega-6 fatty acids are less likely to have an autistic child


Women who eat healthy fats when pregnant are 34 per cent less likely to have a child with autism, according to research.


In the study, women who ate high levels of omega-6 fatty acids – linoleic acid – found in vegetable oils, seeds and nuts were less likely to have an autistic child compared to women who ate low levels of the nutrient.

It also found that women who consumed low levels of omega-3 fatty acids – found in fish – were 53 per cent more likely to have a child with autism.

The researchers could not find a reason for the link, only that it appears to exist. But the study was small and further investigation needs to be carried out.

“Our results provide preliminary evidence that increased maternal intake of omega-6 fatty acids could reduce risk of offspring [having autism spectrum disorder], and that very low intakes of omega-3 fatty acids and linoleic acid could increase risk,” researchers said in the study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.


The study included 317 mothers who had a child with autism and 17,728 mothers who had a child without autism. Participants answered questions about their diet and the researchers say that it is possible that other factors not included in the study may explain the link.

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