Posted on Feb 28, 2011, 6 a.m.
A diet, high in fats, sugars, and processed foods in early childhood may lower IQ later in life.
In that some studies have suggested an association between early childhood diet and later behavior and school performance, Kate Northstone, from the University of Bristol (United Kingdom), and colleagues analyzed data collected on participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which is tracking the long term health and wellbeing of approximately 14,000 children born in 1991 and 1992. Parents completed questionnaires, detailing the types and frequency of the food and drink their children consumed when they were 3, 4, 7 and 8.5 years old. The team defined three dietary patterns: "processed" -- high in fats and sugar intake; "traditional" -- high in meat and vegetable intake; and "health conscious" -- high in salad, fruit and vegetables, rice and pasta, with each child categorized in to one of the patterns. As well, the researchers conducted standardized IQ testing when the subjects were 8.5 years old. The results showed that after taking account of potentially influential factors, a predominantly processed food diet at the age of 3 years was associated with a lower IQ at the age of 8.5 years, irrespective of whether the diet improved after that age. Every 1 point increase in dietary pattern score was associated with a 1.67 fall in IQ. Conversely, a healthy diet was associated with a higher IQ at the age of 8.5 years, with every 1 point increase in dietary pattern linked to a 1.2 increase in IQ. The team concludes that: “There is evidence that a poor diet associated with high fat, sugar and processed food content in early childhood may be associated with small reductions in IQ in later childhood, while a healthy diet, associated with high intakes of nutrient rich foods described at about the time of IQ assessment may be associated with small increases in IQ.”
Kate Northstone, Carol Joinson, Pauline Emmett, Andy Ness, Tomas Paus. “Are dietary patterns in childhood associated with IQ at 8 years of age? A population-based cohort study.” J Epidemiol Community Health, 7 Feb. 2011.