Not much research has been done to establish a link between your childhood dietary habits and your intelligence later in life. This study compares the dietary intake of a group of children for a period of five years, with their respective IQ at the end the study. It was observed that consumption of a healthier diet with more salad, fish and fruit eventually led to greater IQ levels, while high fat and sugar containing food consumed regularly at three years of age led to lower IQ levels later in life.
According to the reseachers, “Studies investigating the long-term effects of nutrition on intelligence are sparse and conflicting.” It has been well established that breastfeeding leads to higher IQ in children. Many other studies have been done relating specific nutritive substances with IQ levels. Since people consume combinations of various foods, it seems more logical to assess a person’s diet rather than a single or even just a few nutrients. However, not many studies have approached diet with a holistic perspective and have related the same with IQ. Therefore, this study relates the dietary pattern of several children over a few years to their IQ at a later stage.
* A total of 13,988 children were selected from an ongoing study. The dietary habits of the children were assessed by questionnaires at 3, 4, 7 and 8.5 years.
* The children were invited to attend “research clinics” from 7 years of age, wherein certain psychological tests were performed. The IQ assessments were done at 8 years of age and comprised arithmetic, picture arrangements, vocabulary and comprehension tests.
* Statistical measures were used to analyze the dietary habits and IQ of the children.
* Children consuming a health conscious diet rich in salad, fish and fruit had a positive association with higher IQ levels.
* Consumption of processed foods containing high fat and sugar content related with lower IQ levels in children.
* The Verbal IQ and Performance IQ score of children who had consumed a healthier diet was higher, as compared to children consuming more processed foods.
One of the primary limitations of this study was the attrition of children with complete data in the final analysis. It is possible that the “children included in the study and who had complete data were more socially advantaged than the remainder of the cohort for whom IQ was not measured.” This study included a number of children with learning disabilities. Hence, a reduction in IQ during analysis may have been falsely associated with dietary habits, as neurological impairment in children is associated with poor food habits. Maternal intelligence, an important factor in adequate feeding of children, has not been accounted for in this study.
Dietary patterns of children were examined to understand the impact of diet on IQ in children. Poor diets with high fat and sugar (processed foods) content were associated with a lower IQ, while healthier diets had a positive impact on IQ. The associated dietary patterns were more apparent for Verbal IQ than Performance IQ. Hence, assessment of dietary patterns in an early stage could help in unraveling the existing doubt about the influence of food on mental and physical health. “It is likely that the infant diet, beyond the type of milk consumed, plays an important part in cognitive development,” conclude the researchers.
For More Information:
Are Dietary Patterns in Childhood Associated with IQ at 8 Years of Age? A Population-Based Cohort Study
Publication Journal: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, February 2011
By Kate Northstone; Carol Joinson; Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Oakfield Grove, Clifton, Bristol, UK