A new study shows how important it is to provide children with healthy food during their formative years. Researchers found that children raised on a healthy diet have higher IQs later in life. The study also found that children on a diet heavy in processed foods tend to have lower IQs.
Brain food study
Children depend on their diet as the primary source for nutrients that promote healthy development of brain tissues. Public health researchers at the University of Adelaide conducted a study to measure the impact diet could have on children’s IQs.
The study examined the eating habits of more than 7000 children at six months, 15 months and two years of age. Three diet patterns emerged: “Processed” diets high in fat, sugar and convenience foods, “traditional” diets of meat, potato and vegetables and “health conscious” diets of salads, fruit and fish.
They tested the children’s IQs when they turned eight. Children who were breastfed at six months and whose diet included foods such as legumes, cheese, fruit and vegetables at 15 and 24 months had an IQ up to two points higher than other kids the same age.
Processed diet detrimental
The researchers also found that children whose diet regularly included cookies, chocolate, candy, soft drinks and chips in the first two years of life had IQs up to two points lower than other kids the same age.
Does it make a difference?
The researchers noted that the link between healthy diet and higher IQ was strong, even though two points may not be a significant difference. A longer study would be needed to determine if a healthy diet would continue to build the IQ advantage over time.
One study examining the difference 11 points makes on an SAT test could provide some perspective. Researchers at Vanderbuilt University studied 2,000 children who scored in the top 1 percent of the SAT at age 13. They compared the future careers of children who scored at the 99.1 percentile level and at or above the 99.9 percentile level.
Headed in the right direction
The difference of 11 points on the SAT corresponds to an IQ difference of 11 points (136 IQ compared to 147). The researchers found that compared to children with an IQ of 136, children with an IQ of 147 and above were three to five times more likely in their lifetime to secure a patent, publish an article in a scientific journal, publish a literary work, or go on to achieve a doctorate.
Both studies should help parents become aware of the long-term impacts of the food they feed their kids. In addition to the early brain development advantages, children raised on a healthy diet are also more likely to develop healthy eating habits for a lifetime.