What mother wouldn't want to give birth to a genius?

While there are no guarantees, some early research out the University of Alberta suggests eating more berries and bananas during pregnancy could make your child smarter.

The study found women who ate more fruit when they were pregnant delivered children who, at one year of age, performed better on cognitive tests.

"More was better. So, even just having a little bit more fruit during pregnancy, we showed, increased the benefit," said Dr. Piush Mandhane, one of the lead authors of the paper published in the journal EBioMedicine.

Dr. Piush Mandhane

Dr. Piush Mandhane is an associate professor of pediatrics at the Unversity of Alberta and one of the lead authors of a paper that suggests prenatal fruit consumption could boost infant intelligence. (University of Alberta)

The associate professor of pediatrics says he and his team stumbled upon this correlation while conducting neurodevelopment research for the nationwide Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development, or CHILD, study.

As part of that research, they kept track of the maternal diet of 688 expectant mothers in the Edmonton area. Then a year after the babies were delivered, researchers put the infants through a series of memory and developmental tests.

Even while controlling for factors that would normally affect a child's learning, such as maternal and paternal education and family income — fruit came out as the strongest predictor of a higher score on the IQ scale.

"There was a threshold though, so it's not like you could have 50 servings [per day] of fruit and you would have a genius baby. It caps out around five or six servings [per day]," Mandhane told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.

Study replicated in fruit flies

"In science, if you really think this is something real, then it should be able to be reproducible in another system," said Mandhane.

And so he approached his colleague Francois Bolduc who researches cognition in humans and fruit flies.

Bolduc did a series of experiments on the insects where he boosted their prenatal diet with orange and tomato juice. Then he tested their offspring.

"And he came back three weeks later and he said, 'You know, it worked,'" said Mandhane.

The baby fruit flies did 30 per cent better on learning and memory tests when their parents were fed more fruit juice.

Despite these findings, Mandhane said this isn't a license to dine out on fruit because there are negative impacts associated with consuming too much natural sugar during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener