Process This: Babies Who Eat Better May Grow Up to be Smarter

Infant, toddler diets high in processed foods associated with lower IQs later on in childhood

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A new analysis finds that children who eat primarily processed foods that are high in sugar and fats may have lower subsequent IQs than children whose diets include high vitamin and nutrient-rich content.

The study -- based on participant responses in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which tracked the long-term health of 14,000 children born in 1991 and 1992 -- found that kids who ate predominately processed-food diets at age 3 had lower IQs at age 8.5, regardless of whether the diet improved at the older age.

A one-point increase in processed-food intake scoring was associated with a 1.67 point decrease in IQ.

Conversely, a healthy diet at age three was linked to higher IQ at age 8.5 with a one-point increase in dietary pattern for healthy diet correlating with a 1.2 increase in IQ. So eating poorly had a larger negative effect on IQ than eating healthy did on improving IQ.

Dietary impacts for ages 4 through 7 did not appear to impact IQ, which may be attributable to the brain growing and developing at its fastest rate during the first three years of life. The authors conclude that good nutrition during the first three years of life may encourage optimal brain growth.

For the study, researchers rated diets in three categories; 1. "processed" high in fats and sugar intake; 2. "traditional" high in meat and vegetable intake; and 3. "health conscious" high in salad, fruit and vegetables, rice and pasta.

In related news, a recent study indicates delaying solid foods for babies may help curb rising obesity rates among children.

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Review Date: 
February 8, 2011
Last Updated:
February 12, 2011