Prebiotic and Probiotic Consumption during Pregnancy and Autism Observational Scale for Infants (AOSI) Score at 12-Months in the Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI)
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder often have co-occurring gastrointestinal symptoms and abnormalities. The microbiome has been suggested as an important driver or mediator of this co-morbidity. Research suggests that dysregulation of the microbiome can lead to behavioral changes as well as gastrointestinal symptoms. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial to the gut and overall health. Prebiotics are compounds that probiotics use for nutrition. In the framework of a dysregulated microbiome, a prebiotic and probiotic rich diet is theorized to improve gastrointestinal and behavioral symptoms. There is limited evidence that prebiotic/probiotic supplementation during pregnancy and the postnatal period may be beneficial for physical and mental health. However, little research has yet examined the association between prebiotic and probiotic consumption and development of behavioral symptoms in an autism cohort.
Our objective was to test the association between maternal prebiotic and probiotic consumption during pregnancy and child development performance at 12 months.
In an ASD-enriched birth cohort, the Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI), pregnant mothers were interviewed about the frequency and amounts of eating/ingesting/consuming certain foods during the first half of pregnancy (weeks 1-20) and the second half of pregnancy (weeks 21 - birth+). Dietary questions regarding the following prebiotic or probiotic-rich foods were extracted from the data: oatmeal, bran, bananas, strawberries, cooked and raw greens, cabbage, beans, asparagus, onions, fresh tomatoes, rice or other cooked grains, whole-wheat bread, sourdough bread, tofu, tempeh and other soy products, yogurt, kefir, miso soup, pickles and pickled vegetables or fruit. For each of the 214 mothers, a score was created by taking the product of the frequency and amount of each food and summing across all foods (possible range: 0-2448). Child development was measured at 12 months via the Autism Observational Scale for Infants (AOSI), a measure shown to be correlated with later diagnosis of ASD. Linear regression was used to predict the effect of the maternal prebiotic/probiotic score on child 12-month AOSI score on the natural log scale.
Maternal pregnancy prebiotic/probiotic scores were available for 214 women, and ranged from 0 to 488 with a median of 139. The 12-month AOSI score ranged from 0 to 20 with a median of 4. The prebiotic/probiotic score was not significantly associated with child 12-month log AOSI score (effect estimate= 0.0006 for a 1 unit increase in the prebiotic/probiotic score, p-value=0.15, n=214).
Maternal prebiotic/probiotic consumption during pregnancy was not significantly associated with 12-month AOSI performance in the child. However, further research is needed to further explore this question. Future analyses would benefit from a larger sample size and a more refined variable representing prebiotic and probiotic consumption.