In the July, 2012 issue of the European Journal of Epidemiology, Lisa G. Smithers, PhD and her associates at the University of Adelaide in Australia report that a healthy diet early in life benefits children’s intelligence at a later age.
The study included 7,097 children enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which collected dietary data at 6, 15, 24 months of age. Intelligence quotient (IQ) was assessed at 8 years. “Diet supplies the nutrients needed for the development of brain tissues in the first two years of life, and the aim of this study was to look at what impact diet would have on children’s IQs,” explained Dr Smithers, who is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Adelaide’s School of Population Health.
“We found that children who were breastfed at six 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 eight,” she reported. “Those children who had a diet regularly involving biscuits, chocolate, sweets, soft drinks and chips in the first two years of life had IQs up to two points lower by age eight. We also found some negative impact on IQ from ready-prepared baby foods given at six months, but some positive associations when given at 24 months.”
“While the differences in IQ are not huge, this study provides some of the strongest evidence to date that dietary patterns from six to 24 months have a small but significant effect on IQ at eight years of age,” she added.
“It is important that we consider the longer-term impact of the foods we feed our children.”