Processed Food Linked With Lower IQ in Children
According to researched published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, a diet loaded with fats, sugars and processed foods early on in childhood could lower IQ. In contrast, a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients could do just the opposite.
The study's findings are based on participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). This group is tracking the long-term health of approximately 14,000 children born between 1991 and 1992.
The parents of the children in the study filled out questionnaires pertaining to the kinds – and frequency – of the food and beverages their children were given when they were 3, 4, 7, and 8 and a half years old.
From these questionnaires, authors of the study produced three dietary patterns – traditional, which included a high intake of meat and vegetables, processed, which included high amounts of fats and sugar, and health conscious, which included high amounts of salad, fruit and vegetables, and rice and pasta.
Using a validated testing method called the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, the children's IQ's were then measured when they reached 8 and a half years old. Just less than 4,000 children's results were comprehensive enough to be used in the study.
According to the results, a child who was exposed to a diet laden with processed food at the age of three years old had a lower IQ at the age of eight and a half, even if that child's diet changed or improved after the age of three.
In contrast, children at the age of eight and a half who had been exposed to a healthy diet had higher IQ, and every 1-point increase in the dietary pattern was associated with a 1.2 increase in IQ. However, the dietary patterns of children between the ages of four and seven years old did not impact the IQ.
According to the authors of the study, their findings are in accordance with prior research from ALSPAC which points to a link between early childhood diet and later behaviour and school performance.
The authors added, "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."
To further hypothesize the results of their research, the authors noted that the human develops at its fastest during the first three years of life and that other independent research suggests that head growth during this stage in life has been connected to intellectual performance.
They added that additional research is needed to identify the extent that early childhood has on a person's intellectual ability. They said, "It is possible that good nutrition during this period may encourage optimal brain growth."
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