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Does diet effect children’s IQs? According to a study in The European Journal of Epidemiology, led by Dr. Lisa Smithers of Adelaide University, yes. Yes, it does.

Dr. Smithers and her team examined the link between the eating habits of children at 6 months, 15 months and 24 months and their IQ at 8 years. They found for children breastfed at 6 months and at 15 and 24 months consuming a healthy diet of homemade foods and fruits and vegetables, there was a 2 point increase in IQ at age 8 years.

During the first 2 years of life, diet supplies the nutrients necessary for the development of neural tissues. Previous studies have examined prolonged breastfeeding as a cause of higher IQ scores and the influence of iron-enriched formula on cognition and behavior. A small-scale 2009 study found a link between a diet of breastfeeding and fresh fruits and vegetables and home-made foods at 1 year of age and a ~2.7 point increase in IQ at age 4.

Smithers’ study — which had a larger study group and covered more ages than previous studies — observed 7,097 children, breaking their dietary patterns into four areas. The first pattern, Homemade Traditional, consisted of home-cooked meals and desserts. The second pattern, Discretionary, consisted of junk foods (cookies, chips, etc.). The third pattern, Ready-prepared Baby Foods, consisted of pre-made, packaged baby food. The fourth pattern, Breastfeeding and Home-prepared Contemporary, was studied at only 6 and 15 months of age; Home-prepared Contemporary referring to raw fruits and vegetables, cheese, nuts and legumes. At 8 years of age, the team measured the children’s IQ using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.

The study found the following associations between dietary pattern and IQ:

1. Across the board, there was a positive association between Breastfeeding and Contemporary patterns and IQ, and a negative association between Discretionary pattern and IQ. Children who breastfed at six months and followed the Homemade Traditional and Home-prepared Contemporary patterns at 15 and 24 months, had a 2 point higher IQ at age 8. Children who followed the Discretionary pattern had a 2 point lower IQ at age 8.

2. The Home-made Traditional pattern had a positive association to higher IQ scores at 6 months, but at 15 months there was no association and at 24 months there was a negative association.

3. Children receiving Ready-prepared Baby Foods at 6 and 15 months showed a negative association to IQ; however, at 24 months there was a positive association.

4. Ready-prepared Baby Food pattern at 6 and 15 months had a negative association to IQ, compared to Ready-prepared Baby Foods (foods requiring little preparation, i.e. bread, yogurt, cereal) at 24 months, which had a positive association.

The study’s findings show that a child’s cognitive development is definitely affected by diet. While a 2-point increase in IQ is not large, it does point to definite evidence that dietary patterns before the age of 2 years, does affect IQ by age 8. So, get out your food processors parents and hide the chips.