Avoiding meat during pregnancy linked with later substance misuse by children

Lower meat consumption by women during pregnancy linked with increased risk of substance misuse by their children.

When women consumed lower amounts of meat during pregnancy, it was linked with an increased risk of substance misuse by their children during adolescence. The findings come from a study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

In the study of 5,109 women and their offspring, less-frequent consumption of red meat, poultry and meat products during pregnancy were associated with greater risks of adverse alcohol, cannabis and cigarette use in their children.

Lower meat consumption disproportionately increased the risks of substance misuse of the offspring among mothers with optimally functional variants of the gene that encodes a vitamin B12 transport protein. Because insufficient vitamin B12 is highly likely to play a contributing role in the findings of the study, greater meat consumption need not be advised to modify this risk. For example, fortification of foods with vegetarian sources of vitamin B12 and more widespread use of supplements may be other options.

“The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes recommendations for healthy vegetarian eating patterns,” said Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, lead author of the study.  “Our study points to the need to investigate potential health impacts and solutions for some women who choose to restrict certain food categories during pregnancy.”

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