(NaturalNews) Most people understand the importance of a well balanced diet, including the minimum daily requirements of vitamins and minerals, to prevent chronic disease. These critical cofactors of life are repeatedly shown to promote health and prevent a myriad of chronic diseases from diabetes and dementia to heart disease and cancer. The impact of proper nutrition on a child`s developing brain is brought to light in a study published in the British Medical Journal. A processed food diet packed with sugar, fat and excess salt can lower IQ in early childhood, while eating a diet filled with healthy natural foods that provide a full compliment of vitamins and nutrients is shown to benefit cognitive development.
The study results were based on the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children involving 14,000 children born in 1991 and 1992. Based on parent questionnaires, children were placed into one of three dietary groups based on eating patterns: `processed` including excessive fats, sugars and salt, `traditional` based on high quantities of meats and vegetables and `health-conscious` that stressed salads, fruits, vegetables, rice and pasta.
IQ was measured at the age of 8 1/2 using the standardized Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. Researchers found that children eating the most processed food diet at age 3 scored 1.67 IQ points lower for each 1 point increase in dietary pattern score. Similarly, those eating the most healthful diet scored 1.2 IQ points higher for every 1 point improvement in dietary pattern score. Diet was found to have no effect on IQ score after the age of 4 years.
This study underscores the importance of proper diet on the developing brain. Prior research has shown an association between early childhood diet and later behavior and school performance. The research authors noted "This suggests that any cognitive/behavioral effects relating to eating habits in early childhood may well persist into later childhood, despite any subsequent changes (including improvements) to dietary intake".
The brain is growing at an accelerated rate during the first three years of life, and scientists have observed that head growth during this time is linked to intellectual ability. Clearly a diet filled with processed and refined foods that have been stripped of most natural nutrients during these formative years stunts normal brain growth and the development of the critical neural network that are essential to higher brain function and learning.
Researchers concluded "It is possible that good nutrition during this period may encourage optimal brain growth." Starting infants and children on a natural diet early in life is one of the most important lifestyle habits we can teach our children. The diet they become comfortable eating during these early years will help them to develop optimally and avoid the many diseases that plaque adults throughout life.
John Phillip is a Health Researcher and Author who writes regularly on the cutting edge use of diet, lifestyle modifications and targeted supplementation to enhance and improve the quality and length of life. John is the author of 'Your Healthy Weight Loss Plan', a comprehensive EBook explaining how to use Diet, Exercise, Mind and Targeted Supplementation to achieve your weight loss goal. Visit My Optimal Health Resource to continue reading the latest health news updates, and to download your Free 48 page copy of 'Your Healthy Weight Loss Plan'.