Dietary patterns in early childhood and child cognitive and psychomotor development: The Rhea mother-child cohort study in Crete

Vasiliki Leventakou, Theano Roumeliotaki, Katerina Sarri, Katerina Koutra, Mariza Kampouri, Andriani Kyriklaki, Maria Vassilaki, Manolis Kogevinas, Leda Chatzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Early-life nutrition is critical for optimal brain development; however, few studies have evaluated the impact of diet as a whole in early childhood on neurological development with inconsistent results. The present analysis is a cross-sectional study nested within an ongoing prospective birth cohort, the Rhea study, and aims to examine the association of dietary patterns with cognitive and psychomotor development in 804 preschool (mean age 4.2 years) children. Parents completed a validated FFQ, and dietary patterns were identified using principal component analysis. Child cognitive and psychomotor development was assessed by the McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities (MSCA). Multivariable linear regression models were used to investigate the associations of dietary patterns with the MSCA scales. After adjustment for a large number of confounding factors, the 'Snacky' pattern (potatoes and other starchy roots, salty snacks, sugar products and eggs) was negatively associated with the scales of verbal ability (β=-1.31; 95 % CI -2.47, -0.16), general cognitive ability (β=-1.13; 95 % CI -2.25, -0.02) and cognitive functions of the posterior cortex (β=-1.20; 95 % CI -2.34, -0.07). Further adjustment for maternal intelligence, folic acid supplementation and alcohol use during pregnancy attenuated the observed associations, but effect estimates remained at the same direction. The 'Western' and the 'Mediterranean' patterns were not associated with child neurodevelopmental scales. The present findings suggest that poorer food choices at preschool age characterised by foods high in fat, salt and sugar are associated with reduced scores in verbal and cognitive ability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1431-1437
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 28 2016


  • Birth cohort studies
  • Cognition
  • Dietary patterns
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Preschool children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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