AFP - Toddlers who have a diet high in processed foods may have a slightly lower IQ in later life, according to a British study described as the biggest research of its kind.
The conclusion, published on Monday, comes from a long-term investigation into 14,000 people born in western England in 1991 and 1992 whose health and well-being were monitored at the ages of three, four, seven and eight and a half.
Parents of the children were asked to fill out questionnaires that, among other things, detailed the kind of food and drink their children consumed.
Three dietary patterns emerged: one was high in processed fats and sugar; then there was a "traditional" diet high in meat and vegetables; and finally a "health-conscious" diet with lots of salad, fruit and vegetables, pasta and rice.
When the children were eight and a half, their IQ was measured using a standard tool called the Wechsler Intelligence Scale.
Of the 4,000 children for which there were complete data, there was a significant difference in IQ among those who had had the "processed" as opposed to the "health-conscious" diets in early childhood.
The 20 percent of children who ate the most processed food had an average IQ of 101 points, compared with 106 for the 20 percent of children who ate the most "health-conscious" food.
"It's a very small difference, it's not a vast difference," said one of the authors, Pauline Emmett of the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol.
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