A healthy diet not only builds a healthy body, but also a healthy mind, according to a new study of Australian children.
Researchers at the University of Adelaide found children fed healthy diets from an early age tend to have a higher IQ than those who eat a lot of junk food.
Lead researcher Dr. Lisa Smithers noted the key nutrients kids need for healthy brain development come primarily from nutritious foods. To determine just how much diet influences intelligence, Smithers and her colleagues tracked the eating habits of 700 children – at 6 months, 15 months and 2 years – and their IQs at 8 years of age. Researchers compared a range of dietary patterns, including kids’ consumption of home-prepared food, ready-prepared baby foods, breastfeeding, and “discretionary” junk foods.
"We found that children who were breastfed at 6 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 8,” Smithers said. “Those children who had a diet regularly involving biscuits, chocolate, lollies, soft drinks and chips in the first two years of life had IQs up to two points lower by age 8.”
Smithers said the findings, published online in the European Journal of Epidemiology, underscore the need to provide children healthy foods in their most formative years.
"While the differences in IQ are not huge, this study provides some of the strongest evidence to date that dietary patterns…have a small but significant effect on IQ," she said. “It is important that we consider the longer-term impact of the foods we feed our children.”