The associations between maternal and child diet quality and child ADHD – findings from a large Norwegian pregnancy cohort study

Borge, Tiril Cecilie, Biele, Guido, Papadopoulou, Eleni, Andersen, Lene Frost, Jacka, Felice, Eggesbø, Merete, Caspersen, Ida Henriette, Aase, Heidi, Meltzer, Helle Margrete, and Brantsæter, Anne Lise (2021) The associations between maternal and child diet quality and child ADHD – findings from a large Norwegian pregnancy cohort study. BMC Psychiatry, 21 (1). 139.

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Background: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder. Effective long-term treatment options are limited, which warrants increased focus on potential modifiable risk factors. The aim of this study was to investigate associations between maternal diet quality during pregnancy and child diet quality and child ADHD symptoms and ADHD diagnosis.

Methods: This study is based on the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa). We assessed maternal diet quality with the Prenatal Diet Quality Index (PDQI) and Ultra-Processed Food Index (UPFI) around mid-gestation, and child diet quality using the Diet Quality Index (CDQI) at 3 years. ADHD symptoms were assessed at child age 8 years using the Parent Rating Scale for Disruptive Behaviour Disorders. ADHD diagnoses were retrieved from the Norwegian Patient Registry.

Results: In total, 77,768 mother-child pairs were eligible for studying ADHD diagnoses and 37,787 for ADHD symptoms. Means (SD) for the PDQI, UPFI and CDQI were 83.1 (9.3), 31.8 (9.7) and 60.3 (10.6), respectively. Mean (SD) ADHD symptom score was 8.4 (7.1) and ADHD diagnosis prevalence was 2.9% (male to female ratio 2.6:1). For one SD increase in maternal diet index scores, we saw a change in mean (percent) ADHD symptom score of − 0.28 (− 3.3%) (CI: − 0.41, − 0.14 (− 4.8, − 1.6%)) for PDQI scores and 0.25 (+ 3.0%) (CI: 0.13, 0.38 (1.5, 4.5%)) for UPFI scores. A one SD increase in PDQI score was associated with a relative risk of ADHD diagnosis of 0.87 (CI: 0.79, 0.97). We found no reliable associations with either outcomes for the CDQI, and no reliable change in risk of ADHD diagnosis for the UPFI.

Conclusions: We provide evidence that overall maternal diet quality during pregnancy is associated with a small decrease in ADHD symptom score at 8 years and lower risk for ADHD diagnosis, with more robust findings for the latter outcome. Consumption of ultra-processed foods was only associated with increased ADHD symptom score of similar magnitude as for overall maternal diet quality, and we found no associations between child diet quality and either outcome. No causal inferences should be made based on these results, due to potential unmeasured confounding.

Item ID: 69998
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-244X
Keywords: Bayesian modelling, Child ADHD, Child diet quality, Maternal diet quality, MoBa
Copyright Information: © The Author(s). 2021 Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Date Deposited: 09 May 2022 00:44
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