LOS ANGELES (CBS) —Junior, put down that chocolate if you know what’s good for you.
Researchers say a British study being hailed as the largest ever of its kind shows toddlers who have a diet high in processed foods may end up with a slightly lower IQ in their adult years.
The findings published this week from the peer-reviewed Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, published by the British Medical Association (BMA), are the result of a survey of over 14,000 people born in western England between 1991-1992.
When asked to sketch out details of the kind of food and drinks consumed by their young children, parents seemed to diverge among three separate dietary patterns: one largely comprised of processed fats and sugar; a more “traditional” diet high in meat and vegetables; and a vegetarian-style diet including plenty of fruits, vegetables, pasta and rice.
Upon reaching age eight and a half, the children’s IQ was assessed, and of the 4,000 kids with sufficient data, researchers found a significant gap between those with the “processed” diets and those with more “health-conscious” vegetarian eating habits.
The gap, while “not a vast difference” according to one of the authors, Pauline Emmett of the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol, could help nutritionists better understand the social and economic effects from what has largely become a fast-food culture, especially in the West.
However, researchers caution that any link between diet and intelligence should be assessed along with other contributing socioeconomic factors, such as a family’s income bracket and the commercial availability of healthier food in specific regions.
Emmet says while the abundance data was encouraging, more studies are needed to confirm any potential link as the children progress in school.
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