herald

Friday 17 August 2018

Sugary and fatty foods could lower a child's IQ

A DIET which is high in fats, sugars and processed foods in early childhood may lower IQ.

This is according to new research that showed that a diet packed full of vitamins and nutrients may do the opposite, according to the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The brain grows at its fastest rate during the first three years of life, and it is possible good nutrition during this period may encourage optimal brain growth.

The findings were based on a study in which parents completed questionnaires detailing the types and frequency of the food and drink their children consumed when three, four, seven and eight years old.

Three dietary patterns were identified: "processed" high in fats and sugar intake; "traditional" which was high in meat and vegetable intake; and "health conscious" which was high in salad, fruit and vegetables, rice and pasta.

Scores were calcuated for each pattern for each child. Their IQ was measured when they were 8.5 old. In all, complete data was available for just under 4,000 children.

The 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.

On the other hand, a healthy diet was associated with a higher IQ at the age of 8.5. Dietary patterns between four and seven had no impact on IQ.

Refused

The authors pointed out that the findings were in line with previous research showing an association between early childhood diet and later behaviour and school performance.

The authors based their findings on participants in the UK-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which is tracking the long-term health of around 14,000 children.

In Ireland, a survey has previously shown that 40pc of parents said their youngsters refused to eat the right amount or types of healthy food. Just 22pc of children eat the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables.

fdillon@herald.ie

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