Eating chips during pregnancy can lead to significant health problems for new born babies, research suggests.

Consuming a vast quantity of chips, crisps and biscuits during pregnancy can lead to babies having a lower than average birth weight, the 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 132 grams 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 100 grams, 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 0.33 centimetres smaller, they found.

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  • Superfoods For Pregnancy

  • Tofu Smoothie

    <strong>Benefit To Baby:</strong> Healthy Growth Protein is needed to build and repair cells, and is essential to a baby's development and growth. Red meat and dairy are rich in protein, but they're also high in saturated fats. Balance your diet with fish protein (in all fish products), which also contains essential fatty acids. And don't forget vegetable protein, which includes brown rice, quinoa, chickpeas, lentils, baked beans, pumpkin seeds and cashew nuts. A great alternative protein source, tofu is low in fat and will help balance those blood sugar levels. Add to juice from pomegranate and mixed berries for a sweet drink that also packs a powerful antioxidant punch.

  • Sunflower Seeds

    <strong>Benefit For Mother And Baby:</strong> Boost Energy Levels And Provides Nutrition To Baby Iron is vital for your baby's physical growth and brain development, and helps produce the blood required to supply nutrition to the placenta. Not enough iron, and you can feel tired and be more susceptible to infections. There's also a greater risk of premature birth and your baby having a low birth weight.

  • Eggs

    <strong>Benefit To Baby:</strong> Brain Development Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, helps your body metabolise protein, fats, and carbohydrates. It also helps form new red blood cells, antibodies, and neurotransmitters, and is vital to your baby's developing brain and nervous system.

  • Pumpkin

    <strong>Benefit To Mother:</strong> Helps Constipation Many pregnant women suffer from constipation, which is cause by an influx of hormonal changes that play havoc with the digestive system. It To avoid discomfort and to help regulate your bowels, eating a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/29/banish-that-post-christmas-bloat-high-fibre-foods_n_1174063.html#s578333&title=Spinach" target="_hplink">rich fibre diet</a> will help get things moving, as they help absorb excess acid and gas, help to speed up digestion and empty your stomach faster. Foods like brown rice, dried figs, kidney beans and avocado are all rich sources of fibre. Pumpkins are great as they offer fibre plus it's said to act like a mild laxative.

  • Yoghurt And Honey

    <strong>Benefit To Mother And Baby:</strong> Increases Energy Levels And Bone Building High in calcium (important during pregnancy for building your baby's bones) with a sweet kick from the honey, this treat should tide you over without making you sleepy. Dairy foods provide vitamins A and D, which are essential for bone-building and bone maintenance for you and your baby. They are also a good source of protein.

  • Figs

    <strong>Benefit to Mother:</strong> Eases Heartburn And Water Retention Dried figs are laden with digestive enzymes, which should help you to digest your food and ease those heartburn symptoms. They're also rich in the essential mineral potassium, which helps to maintain the body's fluid balance during pregnancy, which is essential to battling swollen legs, hands and ankles.

  • Oily Fish

    <strong>Benefit To Baby:</strong> Maintains Healthy Nervous System Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for your baby's brain and nervous system, as well as your own mental health. Foods rich in omega-3 include oily fish like fresh tuna, mackerel and sardines, although restrict your intake to twice a week, as too much fish can increase risk of pollutants. Fatty acids help brain development and work to improve its function, so as well as being nutritious, slow-releasing energy snacks, like sesame seeds, which help keep you mentally alert and working well throughout the day.

  • Ginger

    <strong>Benefit To Mother:</strong> Alleviates Morning Sickness Ginger has long been associated with alleviating nausea and has been used as a medicine in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions since ancient times. In China, for example, ginger has been used to help digestion and treat stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea for more than 2,000 years. Ginger biscuits are a good food to nibble on when the nausea starts, or sip on ginger tea or suck on ginger flavoured sweets. Peppermint and mint are also great nausea-relieving agents too.

  • Sweet Potato

    <strong>Benefit To Baby:</strong> Strengthens Bones Sweet potatoes offer a rich source of folic acid, which helps prevent neural tube defects in foetuses. It also protects your unborn baby from spinal cord problems, such as spina bifida. lentils are also a great for increasing your folic acid intake, as one cup provides 358mcg of folic acid, almost the daily requirement of 400mcg. Fruits like strawberries are a great way to get your folic acid, and even tastier if you dip them in chocolate! Scientists in Finland found that eating chocolate when pregnant resulted in happier, livelier babies, but keep your waistline in mind and be conservative when dipping.

  • Almonds And Apricots

    <strong>Benefit To Mother:</strong> Curbs Food Cravings A handful of almonds and apricots will provide you with a sweet kick that's high in protein - this will help to curb cravings as well as keeping you feeling fuller for longer.

  • Parsnips

    <strong>Benefit To Mother:</strong> Protects From Pre-eclampsia Parsnips are a good source of fibre and folate (the natural form of folic acid), as well as providing potassium (associated with a lowering in blood pressure) which is vital for protecting against pre-eclampsia, a condition caused by high blood pressure.

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."

See also:

Dieting During Pregnancy 'Could Be Beneficial To Woman's Health'

A Drink A Day ‘Safe' During Pregnancy Claim Experts

Pregnant Women's Eating Habits Influence Unborn Baby's Taste

They added: "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. 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.

The programme is one of the country's biggest research projects, studying the health of around 14,000 children born in the city.

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  • Find Meat Alternatives

    This may sound like an obvious one, but replacing meat with vegetable sources of protein like rice, beans and lentils, will always help reduce costs. That goes double during this period, when the USDA specifically predicts a price hike in animal protein. The Environmental Working Group recommends reducing meat-based meals by <a href="http://static.ewg.org/reports/2012/goodfood/pdf/goodfoodonatightbudget.pdf" target="_hplink">two additional meals per week</a>, replacing them with lentils or beans for significant savings.

  • Skip Prepared Foods

    Not only are boxed, frozen meals, pizzas and burritos more likely to be processed and laden with excess sugar, fat and salt, they're also generally more expensive, <a href="http://static.ewg.org/reports/2012/goodfood/pdf/goodfoodonatightbudget.pdf" target="_hplink">according to the EWG</a>.

  • Plan With A Shopping List

    Grocery stores are designed to encourage more purchases, so walking in without a game plan can be dangerous for your bottom line. Instead, come equipped with a list full of staples that get you the most bang for your buck.

  • Think About The Nutrient You Want

    Want fiber? Black beans and popcorn may be the cheapest sources. Need to up your protein intake? Go for canned tuna. For a more complete list of swaps, <a href="http://fitbie.msn.com/slideshow/8-ridiculously-cheap-healthy-foods" target="_hplink">check out Fitbie's suggestions</a>.

  • Preserve!

    Buying in bulk is a cheap way to get a lot of food in your larder, but healthful fruits and veggies can go bad before you can eat them. That's where pickling, jarring and canning can come in handy -- it's a cheap, healthful way to keep seasonal produce all year round. Start by checking out the <a href="http://nchfp.uga.edu/" target="_hplink">National Center for Home Food Preservation</a>, a government resource that provides guides on safe canning, pickling and other forms of preserving.

  • Freeze

    Another form of preservation, freezing is a good option for perishable items like meat and cheese, in addition to produce. The <a href="http://static.ewg.org/reports/2012/goodfood/pdf/goodfoodonatightbudget.pdf" target="_hplink">EWG also points out</a> that freezing allows buyers to bring home family-sized packs that are on sale, further helping with savings.

  • Grow Your Own

    Though there's an initial investment in starting a garden -- the seedlings, planting boxes, fertilizers, tools and other instruments do add up -- there are incredible gains, too: a steady source of organic, fresh fruits and veggies. If you don't have a backyard, rooftops, balconies and community plots work just fine. Want to learn how to create your own veggie garden? <a href="http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/gardening/outdoor/garden-starting-checklist-00000000002180/index.html" target="_hplink"><em>Real Simple</em> has some good tips</a>.

  • Vouchers

    This is an obvious one, but so many people don't do it. Using vouchers is a great way to get organic and other pricier health foods at a discount.

  • Buy Dry

    Dried beans are cheaper than canned. Dry milk, mixed with water, makes <a href="http://static.ewg.org/reports/2012/goodfood/pdf/goodfoodonatightbudget.pdf" target="_hplink">a cheaper and no less healthful</a> substitute for recipes. Get bulk bags of dry oats for oatmeal, rather than the more perishable boxes of cereal. Dried fruits are another way to keep vitamin-packed goodies on your shelves for longer periods.

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, almost twice the level of the Danish babies.

"When we investigated their diet it was clear that the largest source of dietary acrylamide is from chips."

CREAL researcher and lead author Dr Marie Pedersen, added: "The public-health implications of the findings in this study are substantial.

"Reduced birth weight, in particular low birth weight, has been shown to be related to numerous adverse health effects early or later in life such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Furthermore, reduced birth head circumference has been associated with delayed neurodevelopment."

Professor John Wright from the Bradford Institute for Health Research, who is leading the Born in Bradford study, added: "This is important new research which demonstrates a clear link between acrylamide and the health of newborn babies.

"The effect of acrylamide is comparable with the well-known adverse effect of smoking on birth weight. Our advice for pregnant mothers is to follow a balanced diet and go easy on the crisps and chips.

"The results provide further evidence about the potential toxicity of acrylamide and should also encourage food manufacturers to start exploring methods to reduce acrylamide in their products."