Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Toddlers Eating Linked to IQ!

Almost every toddler I know goes through a period where they become more "picky" with what they want to eat and even how they eat!  Part of it may be linked to their development as they are becoming more independent and wanting to exercise their ability to make decisions.  Different parents would share stories of how their son or daughter will only eat certain foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (like pb&j).. or that they will only eat certain foods that are a certain color.. or that certain foods cannot touch on their plate.  Whatever the case, you will often have worried parents wondering if their toddler is getting enough calories or nutrition.

Usually the advice to parents is to present healthy options and try to keep meal time pleasant by not forcing the toddler to eat.  The idea is that they will get hungry and eat... eventually.  I have to admit this is much easier advice to give than to adhere to.  My older daughter has never been a great eater and she has been in the lowest percentile for weight ever since birth.  She also seems to have a fast metabolism and is a super active kid.  All that in addition to the fact that every time she gets too excited and jumps around too much, or runs around too much after meals... she will often cause herself to go into a coughing fit and then even throw up everything she's eaten!  So we try to balance between not making meal time a complete stress vs making sure she is getting some healthy caloric intake... not an easy task.

Now, this article caught my eye today.  It basically links poor eating habits in toddlers with lower IQs.  Main take away points I got from it are:

-  children at age 3 who eat a high fat, sugar, and processed foods diet have slightly decreased IQ later in childhood (they tested the kids at 8.5 years old)
-  children who eat a "health-conscious" diet rich in salad, rice, pasta, fish, fruits, and vegetables have 1.2 point increase in their IQ
-  theory is healthy eating = optimal brain growth (which fastest brain growth happens from 1-3 yo)

So of course the authors go on to say that further research is needed to confirm this link.  One thing they could not adjust for in the study was maternal IQ.  This is huge because maybe it is not so much the association of food that produced the higher IQ but more so the link that moms with higher IQs tend to offer more nutritious foods to their toddlers.. and therefore their toddlers scored better on the IQ tests later on.  One way I can think of to really test this theory is to have only twins in these kind of studies... offer one twin "nutritious food" and the other twin the so called high fat, sugar, and processed foods and test their IQs to see if there is a difference!  Of course, trying to get twins to enroll in a study like that may be challenging...

Anyways, whether it is true or not it is a good plug to offer more healthy options to our toddlers.  

One other interesting thing is that the Asian diet is mostly rice, meat, and vegetables... so since she was on solids my girls have been eating rice mixed with meat and vegetables as their staple. In fact, my three year old really does not eat other foods well... she doesn't really like pizza (though she will pick the pepperoni or sausage off the cheese and eat that).  On the other hand, she loves ice cream and will eat only ice cream probably for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if given that option!