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Healthy diet early in life boosts IQ

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Feeding your child chocolate and other junk food can lower IQ by age 8

What you feed you kids could have an impact on brain development, especially early in life, finds a new study. Researchers from University of Adelaide have found children who eat junk food have lower IQ’s than kids given a healthy diet.

In their study, the researchers tracked what children ate starting at age 6-months, then at 15-months and two years; then measured their IQ at age 8.

Dr Lisa Smithers who led the study said in a press release, "We found that children who were breastfed at six months and had a healthy diet regularly including foods such as legumes, cheese, fruit and vegetables at 15 and 24 months, had an IQ up to two points higher by age eight.

She says even though the difference in IQ between children who eat more junk food and those given a healthy diet isn’t huge, the study provides ‘some of the strongest evidence’ that dietary intake from 6 to 24 months has an effect on intellect by age 8.

"It is important that we consider the longer-term impact of the foods we feed our children," she says.

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The study looked at more than 7000 children and compared a range of dietary patterns from home prepared meals, pre-prepared baby food, breastfeeding and junk food.

Smithers explained during the first 2 years of life, food supplies the brain with essential nutrients for development. The study was designed to see how diet early in life affects a child’s IQ.

By age 8, children whose diet included chocolate, biscuits, sweets and soft drinks in the first two years of life had a 2-point lower IQ than their counterparts who ate healthier food. There was also a negative impact on IQ from ready to eat baby foods given at age 6-months that was positive at 2 years of age.

The study suggests a diet heavy in junk food early in life can have a slightly negative effect on your child’s IQ that is apparent by age 8. Breastfeeding and giving your baby healthy foods seems to give the brain a boost and can make your kids a little bit smarter.

The University of Adelaide
August 7, 2012

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