Barcelona, Spain—A new study focused on 2,200 mother-child pairs found that when pregnant women ate more nuts during the first trimester, their children did the best in tests measuring cognitive function, attention capacity and working memory.

The study was published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.It used data from the INMA project, wherein nut intake was obtained from questionnaires on eating habits,according to a press release.The children’s neuropsychological development was assessed using international validated standard tests when they were 18 months, 5 years, and 8 years old.

The highest consumption of nuts reported was a weekly average of around three 30g servings, which, according to the release, is slightly lower than the three to seven servings recommended by the Spanish Society of Community Nutrition.

Florence Gignac, ISGlobal researcher and first author of the study, said in the release: “The brain undergoes a series of complex processes during gestation, and this means that maternal nutrition is a determining factor in fetal brain development and can have long-term effects. We think that the beneficial effects observed might be due to the fact that the nuts provided high levels of folic acid and essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6, components that tend to accumulate in neural tissue.”

Jordi Júlvez, ISGlobal researcher and co-author of the study, noted that no associations were observed between third trimester nut intake and cognitive development. “Scientific literature speculates that the rhythm of fetal development varies throughout the pregnancy, and there are periods when development is particularly sensitive to maternal diet.”

Júlvez adds that this is the first study to cover this effect, and that the results require validation through further studies and trials.