Poor Diets Are Lowering Children’s IQ

With an estimated 70 percent of the American diet made up of processed foods, we — as a collective — are facing a serious conundrum in which if greater effort is not given to make wholesome, more nutritious fare a priority (with many countries following the lead of the United States), incoming generations will not only not live as long as their parents, they won’t be near as intelligent either.


According to a recent study conducted by the Avon Longitudinal study of Parents and Children, diets high in fat, sugar, and processed foods are lowering children’s IQ. The report shares that eating habits among three year-olds shapes brain performance as they get older.

Furthermore, a predominantly processed-food diet at the age of three is directly linked with lower intelligence at the age of eight and a half, according to the Bristol-based study.

Found by tracking the long-term health and well-being of around 14,000 children, what this study re-affirms is that there really are no more excuses for eating low-quality fare.

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The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reports: Food packed with vitamins and nutrients notably helped boost mental performance as youngsters got older.”

There is good news, however. If one implements change as soon as possible, it is possible for intelligence to improve with age and better eating habits. The Guardian reports that “toddlers’ diets could change IQ levels later in childhood, even if eating habits improve with age."

“This suggests that any cognitive/behavioral effects relating to eating habits in early childhood may well persist into later childhood, despite any subsequent changes to dietary intake,” the authors of the study wrote.

Parents of children participating in the study completed questionnaires detailing the types and frequency of the food and drink their young ones consumed when they were three, four, seven, and eight-and-a-half years old. What was found is that with every one-point increase in the study’s dietary pattern score — a record of processed fat intake — IQ fell an average of 1.67 points.

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Documentaries like Fast Food Baby bring to attention the very real epidemic we as a global society are facing. With low-quality and cheap fast food options available, many parents are finding it difficult to not only make healthy choices themselves, but inspire their youngsters to eat more nutritious fare as well.

But the importance of getting kids to eat their fruits and vegetables cannot be understated. As the brain grows its fastest rate during the first three years of life, “It is possible that good nutrition during this period may encourage optimal grain growth,” stated the report.

The School Food Trust’s director of research, Michael Nelson, said:

Given that around 23 percent of children start school either overweight or obese, it’s absolutely clear that healthy choices as part of their early development will stand children in good stead — not only for keeping a healthy weight as they grow up, but as this evidence suggests, improving their ability to do well at school. These findings also demonstrate the importance of helping everyone involved with children’s early development to get the information and advice they need on good nutrition.

Even though information is everywhere on how to make healthy eating choices and the importance for doing so, it is the minority actually succeeding in the task of living healthier lives. For this reason, we are sharing some simple tips of how you might encourage the entire family to become more interested in consuming nutritious cuisine below:

1) Make Dinners a Family Event

The evening meal is an exceptional time to bring the family together and engage in conversation over a healthy meal. Not only is social culture hugely important for optimal health, but it will encourage the young ones to follow the example set by the parents, and also keep everyone accountable as they indulge in fare that is nutritious, wholesome, and made with love.

2) Have Healthy Snacks on Hand

Whether you’re at your kids’ soccer game, running errands, or planning a weekend get-away, it is imperative to plan ahead, or you really do plan to fail. Keep a light cooler in your car (and remember to clean it out after your day errands) with a bag of cut up vegetables, almond butter, fresh fruit, and organic, whole-grain snacks. When a child is screaming that they’re hungry after school, everyone will be less tempted to grab fast food when there is nutritious back-up options in the car.

3) Be An Accountable, Responsible Adult

It’s hard to try and teach young individuals how to live healthy, happy lives when you’re struggling to do so yourself, but thankfully becoming healthier can be a family adventure that brings everyone closer together. Know that you are human, and that you will likely ‘fall off the wagon’. But don’t let your guilt cause you to sneak candy bars in the car, eat fast food away from your family, or cave into your children’s demand for pizza every night.

Be an adult, know that what you and your family eats affects their health, their intelligence, and their longevity in this life, and call upon expert help to provide the education and support your family may need to succeed long-term.

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There is nothing shameful about acknowledging you don’t have the time to figure out the ins-and-outs of basic nutrition — ask for help. Watch the junk food get cleaned out of the cupboards, learn how to shop correctly, and above all, be happy knowing you’re human.

Do enjoy cheat nights every now and again with your family, but recognize that long-term, the evenings at Burger King will not matter most to your kids (tempers will likely be thrown in the beginning stages), it will be that you and your spouse are in their lives as they grow older and create families of their own.

Do you have more tips to add, or insight to share on this finding? Share in the comments section below!

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