Dangers of a Processed Food Diet

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 No Commented
Categorized Under: Nutrition

We all do it sometimes, but if you routinely feed your kids a processed food diet full of lots of sugary and fatty foods you might be doing more than encouraging them to put on weight, you might also be lowering their IQ. This is the finding of a British study that also saw kids who ate vitamin and nutrient rich diets actually brought their IQ number up.

It’s very likely that good nutrition promotes healthy brain tissue and cognitive development according to the researchers. Which is especially pertinent for children aged up to three as the brain is growing rapidly. And while doctors (and others) will tell you that eating healthy from a young age is important; this is the first study to suggest a direct link between diet and brainpower later on.

The work is based on data collected from a major investigation of childhood development that included just under 4000 children born between ’91 and ’92. The subject’s parents answered detailed questions about what their children ate and drank at ages 3, 4, 7 and 8.5 years. When they were eight and a half years old the children’s IQ’s were
tested using a standardized intelligence test for children.

The team identified three common diets

  1. A processed diet, which was full of fats, sugar and good tasting convenience foods
  2. A traditional diet, heavily reliant on meats, potatoes, bread and veggies
  3. A healthy diet that had lots of good for you foods, things like fruit, veggies, salad greens, fish, pasta and rice.

They then rated the diets on a point scale from most healthy to most unhealthy.

Children who were fed a lot of processed foods at 3 years old scored a lower IQ when tested at 8.5 years old than did those who ate a healthy diet.

In fact, for each one-point increase in processed food consumption, there was a 1.67-point loss in IQ. What’s more, each one-point increase in eating a healthy diet resulted in a 1.2-point raise in IQ according to the researchers. The link held even after adjustments were made for factors like socioeconomic status, breastfeeding, home environment and the education of parents.

The key appears to be what the child was eating at age 3. Diet at ages 4 and 7 didn’t have an effect on IQ.

Experts believe that when a child’s diet consists mostly of processed foods high in calories and low in needed nutrients, their brains don’t get the compounds they need to develop and work properly.

We’re not talking about occasional intake – a slice of pizza on the weekend for instance, but rather a steady, regular diet of these types of foods. This can impact cognitive ability as well as cause poor behavior and impaired social skills.

Other experts agree that most of us don’t give much thought to the foods we (or our kids) eat and their consequences to our bodies, let alone our brains.

Moving forward the best advice is to start paying more attention to what your young children are eating… stay away from a processed food diet that is high in sugar and fat, and opt for fresh fruits and veggies as much as you can. A snack here in there isn’t forbidden… a steady diet of such foods is another matter.

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