Does Eating Junk Food Make Children Dumber?

happymeal13Tragically, when kids are fed junk food, their developing brains may suffer as a result. (Thus producing dim-minded adults who gobble more junk food, in an endless cycle?)

After controlling for every socioeconomic factor they could think of, researchers found that young children with diets heavy in processed foods grew to have lower IQs than similar children who ate more healthily, The Week writes:

Researchers at England’s University of Bristol found that a child’s eating habits at age 3 may influence his cognitive abilities at age 8. Toddler diets high in fat and sugar were associated with lower IQ scores, while healthier eating was tied to higher scores. The report, which appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, is being billed as “the first study to suggest a direct link between the diet of young children and their brainpower” years later.

The researchers examined data on nearly 4,000 children born in the early 1990s, including detailed information from parents on what the kids ate and drank at specific ages. It also included the results of IQ tests performed when the children were 8.5 years old. The researchers sorted the kids into three categories based on whether they were given a “processed” diet full of fat and sugar; a “traditional” diet of “meat, potatoes, bread and vegetables”; or a “health-conscious” diet heavy on salad, fruit, rice, and fish. They also rated the kids’ diets on a point scale, “which ranged from minus two for the most healthy to 10 for the most unhealthy.”

At age 8.5, the kids who’d been fed the worst diet as toddlers had slightly lower IQs than the kids with the healthiest eating habits. Every one-point increase in the 12-point unhealthy food scale was associated with a 1.67-point drop in IQ. That correlation held even after researchers adjusted the data for other factors like socioeconomic status and parental education. Improving a child’s diet after age 3 did not seem to correlate to a jump in IQ.

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  • Guest

    Did the study control for divorced families vs. kids from intact, two-parent homes? Cuz a 2008 study in Nature found a:

    >significant association between family divorce and children’s overweight: compared with children of married parents, those of divorced had significantly higher BMI levels…

    And since women file for about 70% of all divorces, it’s often mommy’s fault that her l’il angel becomes a l’il butterball.

    go girl power!

  • Guest

    Did the study control for divorced families vs. kids from intact, two-parent homes? Cuz a 2008 study in Nature found a:

    >significant association between family divorce and children’s overweight: compared with children of married parents, those of divorced had significantly higher BMI levels…

    And since women file for about 70% of all divorces, it’s often mommy’s fault that her l’il angel becomes a l’il butterball.

    go girl power!

  • Guest
  • crabs in a bucket

    obviously you were on the junk food diet… the study looked at IQ (intelligence quotient) not BMI (body mass index)… just sayin’

  • Yellowlin

    Duh.

  • Yellowlin

    Duh.

  • Synapse

    Probably a cultural/socio-economic bias. It most likely has nothing to do with junk food itself, but the kinds of people who resort to using junk food as a replacement for real meals. Someone who cares about their children and has time to make dinner does so, and doesn’t let their kids “ruin their appetite” with “snacks.” The poor person with no time just gives the oldest kid 3$ and says go buy a package of cookies, that’s dinner tonight.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      Last paragraph on this page discusses how they controlled for those factors, so try again.

      • Synapse

        I read that, but that doesn’t make the study foolproof. Giving your kid a diet based more and more on junk is going to be going on that path. You can’t factor it out why they’re giving so much junk food in the first place. I doubt they had millionaires giving their toddlers as much junk food as impoverished people.

  • Synapse

    Probably a cultural/socio-economic bias. It most likely has nothing to do with junk food itself, but the kinds of people who resort to using junk food as a replacement for real meals. Someone who cares about their children and has time to make dinner does so, and doesn’t let their kids “ruin their appetite” with “snacks.” The poor person with no time just gives the oldest kid 3$ and says go buy a package of cookies, that’s dinner tonight.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Last paragraph on this page discusses how they controlled for those factors, so try again.

  • Synapse

    I read that, but that doesn’t make the study foolproof. Giving your kid a diet based more and more on junk is going to be going on that path. You can’t factor it out why they’re giving so much junk food in the first place. I doubt they had millionaires giving their toddlers as much junk food as impoverished people.

  • Synapse

    I read that, but that doesn’t make the study foolproof. Giving your kid a diet based more and more on junk is going to be going on that path. You can’t factor it out why they’re giving so much junk food in the first place. I doubt they had millionaires giving their toddlers as much junk food as impoverished people.

  • justagirl

    felicitations, malefactors! i’m endeavoring to misappropriate the formulary for the preparations of affordable comestibles! WHO WILL JOIN ME?!

  • justagirl

    felicitations, malefactors! i’m endeavoring to misappropriate the formulary for the preparations of affordable comestibles! WHO WILL JOIN ME?!

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