According to a new report published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health young children who eat a diet of processed foods that are high in fat and sugar may have a lower IQ later in life, while those who receive proper nourishment in early childhood may see an increase in their brain power.
The study involved 14,000 children and parents and monitored the health and well-being of the children at ages of 3, 4, 7 and 8, including IQ measurements confirmed at age 8.5 with the use of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.
The researchers analyzed the dietary habits of the children and identified three dietary patterns that included consumption of processed foods with a high fat and sugar content, a diet of traditional foods such as meat and vegetables, and a more health conscious diet that was high in fruits, vegetables, rice, pasta, and salad.
The results of the study showed a link between proper nutrition and learning ability. The children who were consuming a processed food diet at age 3 had a lower IQ at the age of 8.5, whether or not their diet improved after that age. Additionally, for each one-point increase in dietary pattern score there was a decrease of 1.67 in IQ. The children who had higher IQ scores at age 8.5 were seen among the children who consumed a healthy diet at age 3. Each one-point increase in the dietary pattern was linked to a 1.2 increase in IQ.
Kate Northstone, the lead researcher of the study stated, “Children should be encouraged to eat healthy foods from an early age, and to avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar, as far as possible.” She also added, “We know this is important for physical growth and development, but it may also be important for mental ability." She said that the message is to encourage parents to give fresh food as much as they can.