Feeding Young Kids Junk Food May Lower Their IQ

Sugary, fatty foods could be dumbing down our kids

Sugary cereal for breakfast; tater tots, chicken nuggets and potato chips for lunch; pizza and macaroni and cheese for dinner. If this sounds like your typical toddler’s menu, you could be doing a number on your little one’s IQ. New research shows that a steady stream of sugary, fatty or processed foods may be harmful to a child's developing brain.

According to the study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, a diet packed with nutrients and vitamins can boost a child’s IQ, while one that’s full of sugary and fatty processed food can do the opposite.

Researchers in Britain tracked nearly 4,000 children, asking parents to fill out surveys on their kids’ diets at the ages of three, four, seven and eight and a half. What they found was, kids who ate junk-food-filled diets at the age of three experienced a drop in IQ at the age of eight and a half -- even if their diet had improved since the age of three. This link remained even after taking other factors that can affect intelligence into account, like stressful life events, parents’ education, income level and mom’s diet during pregnancy.

Conversely, three-year-olds who were given healthful Mediterranean-style diets experienced a boost in IQ at the age of eight and a half. Children lost 1.67 IQ points for each unit increase in processed foods, and gained 1.2 IQ points for each unit increase in healthy food. What kids ate during the interim years (from four to seven) did not appear to affect cognitive development.

This suggests that the most critical time for brain development and future cognitive abilities appears to be between birth and three. The brain grows at its fastest during the first three years of life, doing 80 percent of its growth in the first 24 months of life. This is the time when your baby is learning how to sit, crawl, walk, talk and grab everything within his or her reach. That’s one of the reasons a baby needs to sleep so much -- so she can process everything that she’s learning. That’s also why it’s important to fuel your ever-curious toddler with all the right foods.

So can you turn your bundle of joy into a baby Einstein? By feeding him or her all the foods that are good for you, too. That means, choosing whole grains over refined ones, eating fish and lean sources of protein, including hefty amounts of fruits and vegetables into your daily diet, and limiting the intake of sugar, unhealthy fat and processed food. Click here for a few ideas for healthy finger foods for your little one.

Kind of makes you wonder how much (more) of a genius you might be if it weren’t for all those Lucky Charms, chocolate milk and Twinkies, doesn’t it?

Is getting your kids to eat a healthful diet a pipe dream, or do they love wholesome foods? Chime in below!

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