Junk food makes kids dumber

If you’re old enough to remember the Skyhooks song ‘Horror Movie’ (and not too embarrassed to admit knowing it), you might recall the lyrics:

“It’s a horror movie right there on my TV
Horror movie right there on my TV
Horror movie and there’s known abuse
Horror movie, it’s the six-thirty news.”

Well, my version of that horror movie is going grocery shopping. Seeing what so many other shoppers put in their trolleys is more horrifying to me than Freddy Krueger, especially when they have young kids in tow! And, according to new research, I’m not the only one for whom this is “shockin’ me right out of my brain.”

British researchers have found that a diet high in fats, sugars and processed foods, and low in high-nutrient foods such as fresh produce, legumes and whole grains, reduces toddlers’ IQs – and this effect persists into later childhood, even if their diet subsequently improves.

That’s right, folks – all those foods that are aggressively pushed at your child every time you switch on the television, cruise past the Golden Arches or push your trolley down the cereal and snack aisles at the supermarket, make your child less intelligent than he or she could otherwise be.

This really shouldn’t come as any great surprise. After all, just as, for example, athletic performance depends on optimal function of the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems of the body, intelligence depends on optimal brain function.

And the brain is an organ which, just like the heart, lungs, muscles (and indeed, any other organ in the body), is completely reliant on a constant stream of nutrients in order to function at its best. Regular intake of junk food (and irregular intake of nutrient-rich food) damages kids’ arteries, stresses their blood sugar regulation mechanisms and increases their risk of cancer. Why wouldn’t it decrease their intelligence as well?

This study is part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which is tracking the health and well-being of around 14 000 children in the Bristol area. A longitudinal study is one in which the researchers follow the participants up at several time-points.

In this case, parents completed detailed dietary questionnaires when their children were 3, 4, 7 and 8 1/2 years old. What the researchers found was that children’s eating habits in very early life shaped their brain performance as they got older, such that a predominantly processed food diet at the age of 3, was directly associated with a lower IQ at the age of 8 1/2.

And this effect was observed even in children whose diet improved as the study progressed, suggesting that a poor diet during the first years of life, when brain growth is as its most rapid, has persistent negative effects on cognitive function.

A diet high in nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains had the opposite effect: it boosted IQ as toddlers grew older.

The bottom line here is that there’s no time in our lives that’s more important for shaping future health than childhood. Too many parents throw up their hands in despair when their kids refuse to eat healthy foods, and just give them what they demand – which is, generally speaking, what unscrupulous food manufacturers and marketers push at them.

Teaching your kids to enjoy preparing and eating fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds is one of the most critically important ways to demonstrate your love and caring for them.

As a mother myself, I know it’s not always easy to get kids to make healthy food choices – but there are strategies that work, and I’ve been sharing them with my clients for many years. And, as the photos of one of my youngest clients, the gorgeous Zac, show, it’s never to early to make healthy eating part of your child’s life!

Zac loves his daily green smoothies!

Zac loves his daily green smoothies!

Who says you can't get kids to eat their vegies?

Who says you can’t get kids to eat their vegies?

Are you concerned about your children’s eating habits? Do you need expert guidance in planning a nutritionally balanced diet for your children, and transitioning them from their current diet without tears and tantrums?

Become an EmpowerEd member today to get the experienced help you need to develop an eating plan that’s perfectly tailored to every member of your family!

I recommend Dr Joel Fuhrman’s book Disease-Proof Your Child to all parents. In this highly readable book, Dr Fuhrman presents the fascinating science that demonstrates how the current epidemic of adult cancers and other diseases is most closely linked to what we eat in the first quarter of life.

He explains how a nutrient–rich diet increases a child’s resistance to common childhood illnesses like asthma, ear infections, and allergies. Additionally, Dr Fuhrman illustrates how eating his nutrient–rich diet during childhood is the most powerful weapon against developing cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disorders in the future.

Disease–Proof Your Child provides nutrient–rich dietary recommendations for children, and offers guidelines and recipes that tempt even the pickiest eaters to enjoy healthy food.


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1 Comment

  • gypsy

    Reply Reply January 18, 2016

    Harsh and scary but oh so true!

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