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Children's Health

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Toddlers’ Diet May Affect IQ at Age 8

Study Shows Diet High in Processed Foods May Be Tied to Lower IQ Scores

Child IQ: Other Factors Matter

But other researchers remain unconvinced.

"The results suggest, at most, a weak relationship between characteristics of the child diet, as reported by the parent and a measure of IQ at age 8,” says Aryeh D. Stein, PhD, MPH, an associate professor at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta.

Stein has studied the impact of nutrition on children but was not involved in this study.

“Other studies, especially in the context of undernourished populations such as Guatemala in the 1970s, have shown that food supplementation prior to age 3 improves cognition, but there is little evidence for any substantial impact of children’s diets in Western populations,” Stein says.

“One important consideration is that social factors such as parental socioeconomic position, schooling, etc., are likely to influence both the child’s diet and the child’s performance on IQ tests, and hence the causal interpretation of observational studies such as this one remains challenging.”

Processed Food: Striking a Balance

Northstone says she understand the pressures busy parents face, and that the important thing isn’t to make sure these foods never touch a child’s lips, only that they don’t replace fruits and vegetables.

“I have a 6-year-old boy,” Northstone says, “and I know how hard it is to say ‘no’ to the crisps and ‘no’ to the sweets and ‘no’ to the chips. You don’t have to always say ‘no.’ Just make sure they also get some fresh food, some fresh fruit, fresh veg. And every now and then, say ‘no’ to the chocolate.”

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