Children who eat a healthy diet before the age of 2 years are more likely to have a higher IQ at age 8 years than those who eat a less healthy diet, show results published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.
“Diet supplies the nutrients needed for the development of brain tissues in the first 2 years of life, and the aim of this study was to look at what impact diet would have on children’s IQs,” explained lead study author Lisa Smithers (University of Adelaide, Australia) in a press statement.
Smithers and colleagues assessed data on 7097 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). They examined dietary patterns for the children using parental questionnaires completed at 6, 15, and 24 months of age.
When the children were aged 8 years, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children was used to measure IQ.
The team found that children who were breastfed at 6 months and who had a healthy diet including foods such as fruit and vegetables, legumes, and cheese at age 15 and 24 months had an IQ that was up to two points higher at 8 years of age than those who had a diet high in junk foods such as biscuits, chocolate, sweets, soft drinks and chips during the same period.
There was some indication that ready-prepared baby foods might have a negative effect on later IQ when given at 6 months of age, but not at 15 or 24 months.
“While the differences in IQ are not huge, this study provides some of the strongest evidence to date that dietary patterns from 6 to 24 months have a small but significant effect on IQ at 8 years of age,” said Smithers.