Processed food diet in early childhood may lower subsequent IQ

Feb 07, 2011

A diet, high in fats, sugars, and processed foods in early childhood may lower IQ, while a diet packed full of vitamins and nutrients may do the opposite, suggests research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The authors base their findings on participants in the Avon of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which is tracking the long term health and wellbeing of around 14,000 children born in 1991 and 1992.

Parents completed questionnaires, detailing the types and frequency of the food and drink their children consumed when they were 3, 4, 7 and 8.5 years old.

Three were identified: "processed" high in fats and sugar intake; "traditional" high in meat and ; and "health conscious" high in salad, fruit and vegetables, rice and pasta. Scores were calculated for each pattern for each child.

IQ was measured using a validated test (the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) when they were 8.5 years old. In all, complete data were available for just under 4,000 children.

The results showed that after taking account of potentially influential factors, a predominantly processed food at the age of 3 was associated with a lower IQ at the age of 8.5, irrespective of whether the diet improved after that age. Every 1 point increase in dietary pattern score was associated with a 1.67 fall in IQ.

On the other hand, a healthy diet was associated with a higher IQ at the age of 8.5, with every 1 point increase in dietary pattern linked to a 1.2 increase in IQ. Dietary patterns between the ages of 4 and 7 had no impact on IQ.

The authors say that these findings, although modest, are in line with previous ALSPAC research showing an association between diet and later behaviour and school performance.

"This suggests that any cognitive/behavioural effects relating to eating habits in early childhood may well persist into later childhood, despite any subsequent changes (including improvements) to dietary intake," they say.

The brain grows at its fastest rate during the first three years of life, say the authors, by way of a possible explanation for the findings, adding that other research has indicated that head growth at this time is linked to intellectual ability.

"It is possible that good nutrition during this period may encourage optimal brain growth," they suggest, advocating further research to determine the extent of the effect early diet has on intelligence.

Explore further: New toilets for India's poor, crime-hit village

Related Stories

Western diet link to ADHD

Jul 29, 2010

A new study from Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Health Research shows an association between ADHD and a 'Western-style' diet in adolescents.

The traditional Mediterranean diet protects against diabetes

May 30, 2008

The traditional Mediterranean diet provides substantial protection against type 2 diabetes, according to a study published on bmj.com today. The Mediterreanean diet is rich in olive oil, grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, ...

Pesticide exposure linked to lower IQ

Mar 24, 2006

A study of North Dakota farm children found those children exposed to pesticides tested an average of 5 points lower on standard IQ tests.

Recommended for you

New toilets for India's poor, crime-hit village

22 hours ago

More than 100 new toilets were unveiled Sunday in a poverty-stricken and scandal-hit village in northern India, where fearful and vulnerable women have long been forced to defecate in the open.

Can YouTube save your life?

Aug 29, 2014

Only a handful of CPR and basic life support (BLS) videos available on YouTube provide instructions which are consistent with recent health guidelines, according to a new study published in Emergency Medicine Australasia, the jo ...

Doctors frequently experience ethical dilemmas

Aug 29, 2014

(HealthDay)—For physicians trying to balance various financial and time pressures, ethical dilemmas are common, according to an article published Aug. 7 in Medical Economics.

AMGA: Physician turnover still high in 2013

Aug 29, 2014

(HealthDay)—For the second year running, physician turnover remains at the highest rate since 2005, according to a report published by the American Medical Group Association (AMGA).

Obese or overweight teens more likely to become smokers

Aug 29, 2014

A study examining whether overweight or obese teens are at higher risk for substance abuse finds both good and bad news: weight status has no correlation with alcohol or marijuana use but is linked to regular ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Beard
not rated yet Feb 08, 2011
If your mom:

1) Ate well and avoided smoking/alcohol during pregnancy
2) Breastfed you
3) Read to you
4) Fed you a healthy diet when you were growing

Give her a goddamn phonecall and tell her you love her, because without those advantages you might be at the bar getting in drunken fights right now instead of reading a science website.