Studies Suggest Healthy Diet Linked With Higher Childhood IQ

Published August 16, 2013

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Planning a healthy school lunch for kids may affect intelligence later in life. Emerging, inferential research dictates a correlation between the foods being fed to three-year-olds and their performance on IQ tests at age 8 1/2. The study, which was performed by Bristol University, followed the eating habits of 7,000 children for more than 5 years. Examining the study in more detail yields more reasons to prepare healthy snacks & meals for toddlers.

How was Food Data Gathered?

Parents were asked to routinely fill out questionnaires regarding the consumption patterns of their children. A special emphasis was placed on the consistency of consumption, and most food questions were answered using the following scheme:

  • Never or rarely.
  • Once in two weeks.
  • One to three times a week.
  • Four to 7 times a week.
  • More than once a day.

This line of questioning allowed the researchers to obtain a more holistic view of eating patterns. Researchers later classified foods based on whether they were processed, considered health-conscious, snacks or traditionally prepared. Questionnaires were administered at different age intervals.

Administration of Testing

Physical and mental health testing was performed at age seven. Much of the psychological data gathered was used to identify the presence of confounding variables. These data-skewing outliers were acknowledged in order to maintain better statistical inference. At age eight and a half, the children took part in a standard intelligence quotient test.

Statistical Analysis

The following variables were accounted for during the analysis of IQ test data:

  • Consumption of fatty fish during pregnancy.
  • IQ of biological mother.
  • Gender.
  • Social class of parents.
  • Total caloric intake at different questionnaire-administration dates.
  • Duration of breastfeeding.
  • Parenting evaluation using the HOME score system.
  • Child’s stressful experiences.

Association between diet patterns and IQ was calculated using averages and standard deviations to determine any correlation. A confidence interval of 95%, which states the possibility that data could carry over to a similar population, was attributed to the analysis.

Computed Results

The research illustrated a weak but significant correlation between the consumption of processed foods and a decrease in IQ. Children who regularly consumed convenience-type foods showed a 1.67 point drop in IQ, and this decrease scaled based on the increasing frequency of processed food consumption.

Another significant correlation was made between snacking frequency and higher IQ. Children who regularly ate snacks had a .92 point IQ increase that scaled with how often they snacked.

Lastly, eating a health-conscious diet that was rich in traditional foods, fruits and vegetables incurred higher IQs at age eight and a half. An IQ increase of 1.2 points was attributed to children who regularly consumed healthy foods.

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