Consuming a large amount of chips, crisps and biscuits during pregnancy can lead to significant health problems for newborn babies, a study suggests.
Mums-to-be who have a high intake of acrylamide – which is found in commonly-consumed foods and coffee – are more likely to have babies with a lower than average birth weight and a smaller head circumference, reports The Telegraph.
Lower birth weights have been linked with adverse health effects in early life and as children grow up, while the size of a baby’s head has been associated with delayed neurodevelopment.
Researchers claim that babies born to mothers with a high dietary intake of acrylamide were found to be up to a third of a pound, 132 grams, lighter than babies born to mothers who had a low intake.
Acrylamide is a chemical which occurs naturally in food as a result of heating starch-rich foods at high temperatures, such as baking or frying. The chemical has been found in a wide range of home cooked and processed foods including potato crisps, chips, bread, crispbreads and coffee.
Researchers examined the diets of 1,100 pregnant women between 2006 and 2010 in Denmark, England, Greece, Norway and Spain. The study included 20 research centres across Europe, including the ‘Born in Bradford’ research programme, which looked at 14,000 children born in the Yorkshire town.
“186 women from the Born in Bradford study took part in this major European research programme. We found that their babies had the highest levels of acrylamide out of all five centres, almost twice the level of Danish babies,” said lead researcher Dr Marie Pedersen.
“When we investigated their diet it was clear that the largest source of dietary acrylamide is from chips,” she explained.
“These findings provide evidence supporting the need for changes in food production and for providing clear public health advice to pregnant women to reduce their dietary intake of foods that may contain high concentrations of acrylamide.”