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Kids plus junk food equals lower IQ

Eating plenty of healthy, nutrient-rich foods helps young children’s bodies grow and develop properly—so why not their brains, too?

In a newly published study, a poor diet in early childhood—with lots of fats, sugars, and processed foods—was associated with a slightly lower IQ at the age of 8.5. On the other hand, a healthy diet may have the opposite effect, said the researchers, led by Kate Northstone, PhD, from the Department of Social Medicine at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom.

The biggest impact of diet on IQ happened by age 3, researchers said, the period when the brain is growing fastest—and which may affect the child’s “ability to learn” later. Earlier studies on the effects of vitamin supplementation on kids’ IQ have had mixed results.

Northstone & Co. urged food manufacturers to provide healthier foods and to more clearly label foods to make it easier for families to make healthy choices.

Hear hear! I, for one, plan to share this research tidbit with my 9-year-old son—who loves doing well at school—in order to induce him to eat more vegetables

More easy ways to help kids eat right:

* Have sit-down family dinner as much as possible.

  • * Cook at home more often—and get the kids to help with the menu, shopping, and/or cooking.
  • * Swap sweet drinks for water or low-fat milk.
  • * Try one food every week and eat a variety of foods, to keep kids interested.
  • * Make your snacks as healthy as meals, so if they don’t eat dinner, it’s not a biggie.
  • * Keep a bowl of fruit on the counter, and designate a shelf in the fridge and cupboard for healthy snacks kids can get themselves. Good bets: hummus, guacamole, and veggie & fruit dips.
  • * Allow treats in moderation, but don’t make dessert a ritual after every dinner.
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