Research from Bristol University in the UK has shown that toddlers fed a diet high in junk food can suffer from long lasting damage to their learning abilities.

Young children who eat a diet too high in saturated fat, sugar and highly processed foods like chips, biscuits, soft drink and take-away before the age of three years can lower their IQ by up to 5 points.

Good nutrition is vital in the first three years of life when the brain is growing at its fastest rate.  Even if their diet improves, the damage can be life-long.

The researchers compared the IQ of these children 5 years later at age eight with those who had eaten more fruit and vegetables and nutritious home-cooked meals. They took into account factors such as social class, breastfeeding, maternal education and maternal age. The influence of the home environment including types of toys and access to books was also taken into account.

The findings were part of a major investigation in the UK called the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children which tracked the long term health and well-being of approximately 14,000 children born in the early 1990s.  The study has been published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. **

Unfortunately this sad information comes as no surprise. My own research degree was in infant nutrition and weaning practices. I saw things like a baby of 6 months old with a full 250ml baby bottle filled with cola; also a 3 month old sitting in his bouncinette in front of the TV sucking on hot chips with tomato sauce.

And the sad thing is that if you are reading this blog you probably are just as horrified because the message never seems to reach where it is needed.

By comparison some other research is more encouraging. Research at University College London has shown that bribery can actually encourage children to eat more vegetables and salad over the long term. Praise, stickers and non-food based rewards have been shown to encourage children to try vegetables and that the results last even after the reward has been removed because children grow to like the vegetables. Of course offering food based rewards such as sweets and desserts are not advised!!!


** ref:

Are dietary patterns in childhood associated with IQ at 8 years of age? A population-based cohort study

Kate Northstone, Carol Joinson, Pauline Emmett, Andy Ness, Tomáš Paus

J Epidemiol Community Health jech.2010.111955Published Online First: 7 February 2011 doi:10.1136/jech.2010.111955


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