Child tantrumMothers who eat junk food during pregnancy could risk having badly behaved children, a new study has revealed.

In a study of more than 23,000 mothers and children, Australian and Norwegian researchers found a link between the pregnant mother’s diet and children’s behaviour. They also found that children with a junk food-heavy diet have higher symptoms of anxiety and depression, and can be prone to tantrums.

To establish the link, the researchers looked at the mother’s diet during pregnancy, then the child’s at 18 months and 3 years. They then looked at the levels of a range of emotional and behavioural conditions, including depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder displayed by the children at 18 months and 3 years.

The study was the first of its kind to look at the impact of nutrition during the early stages of life and associated behavioural disorders, the researchers said.

Lead researcher Professor Felice Jacka, from Deakin University, Melbourne, said: “Early life nutrition, including the nutrition received while the child is in utero, is related to physical health outcomes in children – their risk for later heart disease or diabetes for example.

“But this is the first study indicating diet is also important to mental health outcomes in children.

“It is now more clear than ever that diet matters to mental health right across the age spectrum.”