King's College London

Research portal

Prenatal unhealthy diet, insulin-like growth factor 2 gene (IGF2) methylation and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms for early-onset conduct problem youth: Prenatal unhealthy diet, IGF2 methylation and ADHD

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Jolien Rijlaarsdam, Charlotte Cecil, Esther Walton, Maurissa Sydney Chapman Mesirow, Caroline Relton, Tom R. Gaunt, Wendy McArdle, Edward Barker

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-27
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number1
Early online date18 Aug 2016
Accepted/In press10 May 2016
E-pub ahead of print18 Aug 2016
PublishedJan 2017


King's Authors


Background: Conduct problems (CP) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are often comorbid and have each been linked to “unhealthy diet”. Early life diet also associates with DNA methylation of the insulin-like growth factor 2 gene (IGF2), involved in fetal and neural development. We investigated the degree to which prenatal high fat and sugar diet might relate to ADHD symptoms via IGF2 DNA methylation, for early-onset persistent (EOP) versus low CP youth.

Methods: Participants were 164 youth with EOP (n=83) versus low (n=81) CP drawn from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. We assessed if the inter-relationships between high fat and sugar diet (prenatal, postnatal), IGF2 methylation (birth and age 7, collected from blood) and ADHD symptoms (age 7-13) differed for EOP versus low CP youth.

Results: Prenatal “unhealthy diet” was positively associated with IGF2 methylation at birth for both the EOP and low CP youth. For EOP only: (i) higher IGF2 methylation predicted ADHD symptoms; and (ii) prenatal “unhealthy diet” associated with higher ADHD symptoms indirectly via higher IGF2 methylation.

Preventing “unhealthy diet” in pregnancy might reduce the risk of ADHD symptoms in EOP youth via lower offspring IGF2 methylation.

Download statistics

No data available

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454