24/10/2012 08:50 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Mums-To-Be Told To Lay Off The Chips Or Risk Having Smaller Babies

Mums-to-be told: Lay off the chips - they mean having a smaller baby Getty

One of the great joys of being pregnant is that you no longer have to worry about your weight – and tucking in to chips, crisps and biscuits is positively encouraged because you are, after all, eating for two!

Uh-uh! Think again. Chips are bad. Positively evil. The Devil's work.

That's the conclusion of a new study that says the nation's favourite teatime accompaniment, along with other fried foods, could cause women to give birth to babies with a lower than average birth weight.

Time to open that bag of rocket and watercress that's been lurking in the salad drawer!

The investigation was run in 20 European countries and led by the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona and discovered that mothers-to-be who have a high intake of acrylamide, found in commonly consumed foods, are more likely to have a baby with a smaller head circumference.

This has been linked to delayed neuro development, while lower birth weights are associated with adverse health effects in early life.

Babies born to mothers with high levels of acrylamide in their diets were found to be up to 132 grams lighter than those born to mothers with low intakes, researchers said. This is comparable to lower birth weights caused by maternal smoking.

Acylamide is a chemical produced natural through cooking starch-rich food at high temperatures and is found in a wide range of home-cooked and processed foods such as crisps, chips, bread and coffee.

Authors of the study described the potential public health implications of the findings as 'substantial,' adding that reduced birth weight is associated with 'reduced stature, increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes mellitus and osteoporosis' in later life.

More on Parentdish: What foods to eat and what to avoid during pregnancy