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Processed Foods Linked to Lower IQs in KidsProcessed Foods Linked to Lower IQs in Kids

February 8, 2011

2 Min Read
Processed Foods Linked to Lower IQs in Kids

BRISTOL, EnglandYoung children who eat a diet high in fats, sugars and processed foods may have a lower IQs than children who consume a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients may do the opposite, according to a new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Researchers at the University of Bristols School of Social and Community Medicine examined data from participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) that tracks the long-term health and well-being of around 14,000 children born in 1991 and 1992. Parents completed food frequency questionnaires that detailed the foods and drinks their children consumed when they were ages 3, 4, 7 and 8.5. The information was then quantified to produce a dietary pattern score for three different types of diet:  processed" or high in fats and sugars; traditional" high in meat and two vegetable; and health conscious" high in salad, fruit and vegetables, rice and pasta. IQ was measured using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children when they were 8.5 years old.

Results showed that after taking account of potentially influential factors, a predominantly processed food diet at the age of three was associated with a lower IQ at the age of 8.5, irrespective of whether the diet improved after that age. Every one-point increase in dietary pattern score was associated with a 1.67 fall in IQ. On the other hand, a healthy diet was associated with a higher IQ at the age of 8.5, with every one-point increase in dietary pattern linked to a 1.2 increase in IQ. Dietary patterns between the ages of four and seven had no impact on IQ.

"Our research suggests that any cognitive/behavioral effects relating to eating habits in early childhood may well persist into later childhood, despite any subsequent changes (including improvements) to dietary intake," the researchers said.

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