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.
What’s the best brain food once babies and toddlers are eating solid food? Here’s what experts recommend: