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Mum's diet can damage baby's brain

Poor nutrition early in pregnancy can cause a lifetime of damage to a baby's brain, research suggests.

Scientists studying baboons found that reducing the food intake of pregnant females had a major impact on their offspring's brain development.

Brain cells did not divide as much as they should. The researchers compared two groups of baboon mothers at a primate centre in San Antonio, Texas.

One group ate as much as they wanted during the first half of pregnancy, while the other received 30pc less.

The new research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Co-author Dr Thomas McDonald, from the University of Texas, said: "This study supports the view that poor diets in pregnancy can alter development of foetal organs, in this case the brain, in ways that will have lifetime effects on offspring, potentially lowering IQ and predisposing them to behavioural problems."