Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Poor Childhood Diet Linked to Low IQ

I am very interested in childhood nutrition and while browsing on Food Navigator, this headline caught my attention. We all know how important a child's diet is, but can it really affect their IQ? The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, released a study titled, "Are dietary patterns in childhood associated with IQ at 8 years of age? A population-based cohort study" that suggested a diet high in fats, sugars and processed foods in early childhood may result in lower IQ scores as compared to a diet rich in healthy foods packed with vitamins and nutrients which may work in the reverse. It points out that the eating habits during the first three years of life may have an impact on the development of the brain. There are many studies that look at particular foods or supplements but this study looks at normal food combinations as we do not eat foods in isolation. It assessed the links of dietary patterns through early and mid-childhood in nearly 4,000 children and evaluated IQ at 8.5 years of age.

Three reoccurring dietary patterns were found: 'processed', 'traditional' and 'health conscious.' The 'processed' pattern was described as eating foods containing high fat and sugar content and demonstrated higher intakes of processed and convenience foods. The 'traditional' pattern was associated with a diet consisting of mostly home cooked meat, poultry, potatoes and vegetables while the 'health conscious' pattern incorporated high volumes of salads, fruit, vegetables, fish, pasta and rice. 

Overall, the 'processed' pattern was associated with a decrease in IQ at 8.5 years while the 'health conscious' pattern was associated with an increased IQ. The 'traditional' pattern wasn't found to be associated with either a decrease or an increase in IQ. According to the researches, "Studies have shown that head growth during this time is associated with cognitive outcome, and it is possible that good nutrition during this early period may encourage optimal  brain growth." Children first learn how to eat from their parents and what better gift to give them than healthy eating habits. Proper nutrition in childhood can reinforce positive lifelong eating habits. Dealing with a picky eater or small appetites? Check out this article by Mayo Clinic for some tips.

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