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How too many chips for mums-to-be are bad for their babies

Eating chips during pregnancy can lead to significant health problems for newborn babies.

Consuming a vast quantity of chips, crisps and biscuits during pregnancy can lead to babies having a lower than average birth weight, a study found.

Mothers-to-be who have a high intake of acrylamide -- which is found in commonly consumed foods and coffee -- are also more likely to have a baby which has a smaller head circumference.

The size of a child's head has been associated with delayed neurodevelopment, while lower birth weights have been associated with adverse health effects in early life and as children grow up.



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Babies born to mothers with a high dietary intake of acrylamide were found to be up to 132g lighter than babies born to mothers who had a low intake, researchers said.

The mean birth weight among children who were exposed to the highest levels of acrylamide compared with children in the lowest was around 100g, the authors said.

The effect caused by acrylamide is comparable to lower birth weights caused by maternal smoking, they said.

The infant's heads were also up to 0.33cm smaller.

Acrylamide is a chemical which is produced naturally in food as a result of cooking starch-rich food at high temperatures, such as when baking or frying. It has been found in a wide range of home-cooked and processed foods including crisps, chips, bread and coffee.

"The potential public-health implications of our findings are substantial," the authors said.

"Increases in head circumference are an important indication of continued brain growth, and reduced birth head circumference has been associated with delayed neurodevelopment.

"Reduced birth weight is a risk factor for numerous adverse health effects early in life, and has been associated with multiple adverse outcomes later in life such as reduced stature, increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and osteoporosis. These findings provide evidence supporting the need for changes in food production and for providing clear public health advice to pregnant women to reduce their dietary intake of foods that may contain high concentrations of acrylamide."

Researchers examined the diets of 1,100 pregnant women between 2006 and 2010 in Denmark, England, Greece, Norway and Spain.



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They used food-frequency questionnaires on mothers and also examined each baby's cord blood -- which provides information about levels of acrylamide exposure during the last months of pregnancy.

The study, led by the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) in Barcelona, involved 20 research centres across Europe, including the Born in Bradford research programme in the UK.

Dr Laura Hardie, reader in molecular epidemiology at the University of Leeds, said: "186 women from the Born in Bradford study took part in this major European research programme. We found that their babies had the highest levels of acrylamide out of all of the five centres. When we investigated their diet it was clear that the largest source of dietary acrylamide is from chips."

hnews@herald.ie


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