People fed a healthier diet from an early age have a higher IQ, research reveals.
Children who were breastfed and later given plenty of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods had IQs up to two points higher at age 8.
Dr Lisa Smithers, the study’s first author, said:
“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.
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.
The results come from a study of over 7,000 children whose eating habits were analysed at ages 6 months, 15 months and two years.
They were followed until age 8.
Set against the benefits of healthy eating, children fed junk food had lower IQs, Dr Smithers said:
“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.”
Eating well is particularly important in the formative years, said Dr Smithers:
“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.
It is important that we consider the longer-term impact of the foods we feed our children.”
The study was published in the European Journal of Epidemiology (Smithers et al., 2012).