As if raising a child or, simply, growing up weren’t all ready complicated enough, more and more research suggests those early, formative years before the age of 3 are crucial in a child’s later development. Most notably, diet plays a significant role not only in a child’s physical development but in his intellectual growth, as well.
Or, as the Telegraph tactfully headlined it: “Will junk food make your child stupid?”
If a question like that doesn’t strike guilt and fear into the hearts of any parent currently slipping her 2-year-old anything other than a whole-grain, organic, flax-seed and quinoa biscuit (no processed sugar, please) what will? In a story that’s been getting attention all over the place, researchers at Britain’s University of Bristol have linked diet with brain development in children under 3-years old.
“A diet, high in fats, sugars, and processed foods in early childhood may lower IQ, while a diet packed full of vitamins and nutrients may do the opposite,” a press release from Bristol University announced.
The report is just one of many from a long-term study of children born to 14,000 British mothers in 1991 and 1992. Parents of 3,966 of the children were asked in a questionnaire to detail the types and frequencies of foods their kids ate when they were 3, 4, 7, and 8-and-a-half years old.
“We have found some evidence to suggest that a diet associated with increasing consumption of foods that are high in fat, sugar and processed foods in early childhood is associated with small reductions in IQ in later childhood,” lead researcher Kate Northstone, a research fellow in the department of social medicine at the University of Bristol, told Bloomberg Business Week.
Interestingly, this story appeared just as two other stories are making the rounds as well. One suggests that switching your infant to solid foods before the age of 4 months can contribute to obesity later on, and another reported by NPR, looks at the very real problem of food deserts, those areas in cities and rural areas where people simply don’t have access to food.
The connection between that latter story and the issue of junk food and intellectual development being, of course, the fact that many children simply don’t have access to good food because there isn’t any available to them.
All of this brings to mind Sarah Palin’s criticisms last year of Michelle Obama’s efforts through Let’s Move!, Palin’s insistence that programs like Let’s Move! and recent legislation for safer, healthier food somehow infringes upon the rights of people to make their own decisions about what they eat. She’s wrong, of course. As one columnist in Huffington Post noted last year:
[Palin’s] critical comments fail to recognize that, in too many instances, parents have become prisoners of school and community environments that restrict their child’s access to healthy food and physical activity options.
Has anyone explored the connection between a poor diet and willful ignorance?