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Brain bugging bites

Junk food may be finger-licking delicious, but it can result in a low IQ.

health and fitness Updated: Feb 15, 2011 01:26 IST

There is some more bad news for lovers of junk food. It has been found that junk food, which uses processed ingredients, can have adverse effects if you start having it as kids. Toddlers who have a diet high in processed foods may have a slightly lower IQ in later life, according to study by the British Medical Association. The conclusion comes from a long-term investigation covering 14,000 people born 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. Of the 4,000 children, 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% who ate the most processed food had an average IQ of 101 points, compared with 106 for 20% who ate the most “health-conscious” food. The size of the study, too, was unprecedented as it was a huge sample.

Asked why junk food had such an effect, she suggested a diet that was preponderantly processed could lack vital vitamins and elements for cerebral development at a key stage in early childhood. “A junk food diet is not conducive to good brain development,” she said.