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Published on August 17th, 2012 | by Jennifer Kaplan


Healthy Diets Linked to Higher Childhood IQ

We knew it instinctively, but now there’s proof.

New research suggests that children who consume a healthy diet during childhood may have higher IQ scores than kids eating unhealthy diets of ‘junk food.’

According to the results of research published in the European Journal of Epidemiologychildren who eat a healthy diet before the age of 2 years are more likely to have a higher IQ at age 8 than those who eat a less healthy diet. Lead study author Lisa Smithers of University of Adelaide, Australia, explained in a press statement last week:

Diet supplies the nutrients needed for the development of brain tissues in the first 2 years of life, and the aim of this study was to look at what impact diet would have on children’s IQs…While the differences in IQ are not huge, this study provides some of the strongest evidence to date that dietary patterns from 6 to 24 months have a small but significant effect on IQ at 8 years of age.

Smithers and colleagues assessed data on more than seven thousand children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). They examined dietary patterns for the children using parental questionnaires completed at 6, 15, and 24 months of age. When the children were 8 years old, they used the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children to measure the kids’ IQ. Here are some of the results:

  • At all ages, higher scores on a discretionary pattern (characterized by biscuits, chocolate, sweets, soda, crisps) were associated with 1–2 point lower IQ.
  • A breastfeeding pattern at 6 months and homemade contemporary patterns at 15 and 24 months (herbs, legumes, cheese, raw fruit and vegetables) were associated with 1-to-2 point higher IQ.
  • A homemade traditional pattern (meat, cooked vegetables, desserts) at 6 months was positively associated with higher IQ scores, but there was no association with similar patterns at 15 or 24 months.
  • Negative associations were found with patterns characterized by readyprepared baby foods at 6 and 15 months and positive associations with readytoeat foods pattern at 24 months.

The study suggests that dietary patterns from 6 to 24 months may have a “small but persistent” effect on IQ at 8 years.

Dr. Smithers concludes with the obvious conclusion:

…It is important that we consider the longer-term impact of the foods we feed our children.

Photo by Chrissi on

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About the Author

is a former marketing consultant who decided, at the age of fifty, to turn her hand to creative non-fiction. Jennifer continues to write about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for and is the author of Greening Your Small Business (November 2009, Penguin Group (USA)). She was named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster and an MBA - follow her on and .

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