Friday, September 14, 2012

Good Food Correlates with Higher IQ in Kids

Terribly busy.  My oldest child went to kindergarten.  I swear she was a baby just yesterday.

And she was auditioning for Jean-Pierre Jeunet movies.
Actually, much of her life has been something like the following:

Your long summer is over, kiddo.  Enjoy kindergarten!

After a long podcast hiatus, I went on to Doc Femento last week.  Mostly we talked kids and food, just to warn you ahead of time.

So many papers are queued up on the laptop, but here's a quick an easy one.  Observational (every time I cover one of these studies I think I'm not going to do it again, because what does it really show if the results are what you would expect them to be?)  But hey, one for the hopper, anyway, courtesy my fellow food-fancying psychiatrist Drew Ramsey.  He even wrote a book called The Happiness Diet and was kind enough to send a copy to me! When I get some extra time I will deliver a review.  

Study design:  food frequency questionnaires.  Children.  Assessments in early childhood (age 3, 4, 7) and then at 8.5 years of age with IQ tests.  Turns out the crappy processed food your parents feed you correlates with your IQ at age 8.5.  Each standard deviation drop in food quality score sends your IQ dropping 1.67 points.  A "good" diet was:  "salad, rice, pasta, fish, and fruit" whereas a "bad" diet was "processed" with "high fat and sugar content."

There aren't that many studies of intelligence and feeding.  Most of them are done in babies, comparing breastfeeding and formula feeding, and those have shown an increase in the IQ of breastfed babies except it all seems to get very murky when adjusting for the IQ and education of the parents.  And there's the rub.  It seems obvious that parents with higher IQs will probably ensure their precious offspring have all the best organic mashed eggplant and pastured egg yolk breakfast.  And Healthy Whole Grain Pasta, of course… even adjusting for age and education and IQ of the parents won't completely unentangle this data.

But if it makes you feel better to whip out this study for grandma when she comes over with the vat of teddy grahams, be my guest.


  1. The cheeks! The cheeks! I could just eat them up. :)

  2. It may not be a perfect study but at least someone is asking the right questions! Of course mashed eggplant and egg yolk works better than cherrios and gummy bears for brain development, but some people's IQs aren't high enough to figure that out...

  3. Two nutrients that a growing brain needs are DHA and choline. Egg yolk is high in choline.

  4. I wish children made parent's job to feed them decent food easier. I remember eliminating all sugar-containing foods, cheeps and snacks from my house and keeping a sugar-bowl on the top of my tall fridge in order to force my then 3 years old son to eat something but sugar and snacks. It worked. However, he liked to get into the fridge and grab something between meals out of general principle, but his trophy food became cheese, sour-cream (he ate it with a spoon)and cold cuts.We visited McDonald's at least once a week - the excellent playing place when the weather is too cold or too hot. At 9 his IQ was measured somewhere like 163 if I remember properly, and he was accepted in a magnet program for gifted children. He didn't became a genius, though. He will be 20 at November.

  5. First I'd like to thank you for your great blog. Although I haven't been reading for long I have stayed busy in your archive (map). Thanks
    I am a grandfather of 3 boys - 2 in elementary school. I am also a volunteer basketball coach for Parks & Rec.
    I monitor my reported grandsons behaviors and I also have kids on the basketball team with ADHD type symptoms. I really appreciate your posts on behavior, ADHD, etc.

  6. The alternative analysis would be, high IQ people have higher incomes, eat better food and have higher IQ offspring.