Families & the Community

Babies’ Diets Can Impact IQ in Later Years, Study Says

By Julie Rasicot — August 14, 2012 1 min read
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We know that the first two years of life are a critical growth period for a baby’s brain development. Now comes a study that suggests that what we feed our babies could impact the development of intelligence.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia found that babies who were breast-fed and ate nutritious foods during their first two years measured one to two points higher on IQ tests at age 8 than did babies who may have been fed less nutritious foods, such as chips, sweets and soda. Those kids measured one to two points lower at age 8.

The study, published in the European Journal of Developmental Epidemiology, compared a range of dietary patterns of more than 7,000 babies at ages 6 months, 15 months and 24 months and a link to their IQs at age 8. Researchers examined whether the babies were breast-fed, and whether they ate “traditional and contemporary home-prepared food, ready-prepared baby foods...and ‘discretionary’ or junk foods.”

“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,” public health researcher Lisa Smithers said in a university news release. “It is important that we consider the longer-term impact of the foods we feed our children.”

While this study seems to reinforce what we already know—that our bodies and brains need healthy food to grow and develop—it offers some interesting notes about the impact of certain foods on babies’ brain development.

For example, babies who were breast-fed at 6 months and ate foods such as herbs, legumes, cheese, raw fruit and vegetables at 15 to 24 months exhibited a one- to two-point higher IQ at age 8. But while a diet of homemade meat, cooked vegetables, and desserts at 6 months was “positively associated with higher IQ scores...there was no association with similar patterns at 15 or 24 months.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.