Brain food is real - and so is “brain-draining” food. So say Australian researchers who checked up on the diets of 7,000 little kids and then looked at their IQs eight years later. The study, from the University of Adelaide, found a connection:
- Kids who were still being breastfed at six months and regularly ate good-for-you foods like beans, cheese, fruit and vegetables at 15 and 24 months had an IQ up to two points higher by age eight.
- In contrast, kids who regularly munched on cookies, chocolate, sweets, soft drinks and chips in the first two years of life - had IQs were two points lower by age eight.
This isn’t the first study to find a connection between what kids eat early in life and their later intelligence - at least the kind of intelligence measured on an IQ test. In 2011, an on-going British study called the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children found that toddlers who ate more processed, fatty foods had slightly lower IQs. And the more healthy stuff a toddler ate - like fish and produce - the higher their scores.
The British researchers scored the diets of the toddlers, ages 1 to 3. For every one point increase in processed foods they ate, their IQs at age 8 were 1.67 points lower. And for every one point increase in healthy food, IQs at age 8 were 1.2 points higher. The interesting thing was, early diets were linked with later IQ even in kids whose diets got better or worse after age 3 - suggesting that there’s an important early window for helping kids’ brains be all they can be. That makes sense. Kids’ brains grow fastest in the first three years of life - when connections between brain cells are made at a rapid rate.
In this week’s Healthy Kids Minute, doctors at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children stress the importance of reading aloud to children from ages 0-5 as their brains develop.
Researchers are calling it the “Goldilocks Effect”: Turns out that babies’ brains are wired to focus on “just right” experiences and information to help them learn.
In a fascinating new study from the University of Rochester, 7- and 8-month-olds quickly lost interest in video animations of balls, pacifiers and colorful boxes that were too ho-hum predictable or too complex. But they were riveted by those that held some surprises – like a ball appearing from behind a new set of boxes.
"The study suggests that babies are not only attracted by what is happening, but they are able to predict what happens next based on what they have already observed," said lead researcher Celeste Kidd, a doctoral candidate in brain and cognitive sciences. "They are not passive sponges. They are active information seekers looking for the best information they can find."
A brand-new study points the way to fun, feel-good exercise that’s good for a teenager’s body and mind: Yoga. Conducted by a researcher from Boston’s Brigham and Women's Hospital, the study followed 51 11th- and 12th graders who took yoga classes or a regular high school phys-ed class for 10 weeks.
The students took a set of psychological tests before and after the program. The result? Mood problems, anxiety and negative emotions stayed the same or improved among yoga students, but grew worse among those taking regular PE. And nearly three out of four said they’d like to keep on doing yoga.
“Yoga may serve a preventive role in adolescent mental health," says lead researcher Jessica Noggle, Ph.D. Yoga may help kids learn to cope with stress because its emphasis on relaxation, mindfulness and breathing make it more than just another physical-fitness routine. According to ChildLight Yoga, a teacher-training program for yoga instructors who work with kids and teens, yoga:
- develops/improves strength & flexibility
- improves concentration, focus & attention
- develops/improves balance & coordination
- improves general body awareness
- boosts self-confidence and self-esteem
- improves sleeping patterns
- encourages mind/body connection
- promotes calm and ability to be less reactive
- expands creative expression & imagination
- promotes respect for self & others
Below is the first blog entry from Beth Wallace, a registered dietitian at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who will be blogging regularly for us on kids and nutrition.
When people meet me for the first time in a social setting and find out I am a dietitian, things generally go one of three ways:
- They say, “Oh, great! You can put me on a diet,” then check my plate to see what I am eating.
- They immediately hide their food and say, “Please don’t look at what I’m eating; I generally eat really well,” then check my plate to see what I am eating.
- They immediately ask me four to seven rapid-fire questions about the latest and greatest diet or new nutrition study, then check my plate to see what I am eating.
The consistent message is that everyone has questions about food — and no one wants to be judged. What people don’t realize is that the last thing my colleagues and I want to do when we walk out of the hospital is evaluate what other people are eating (unless it looks really delicious), and then make a judgment about their weight, their health, or what they must feed their children.
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