The results suggest that fast food and soda brand knowledge is linked to the development of a preference for sugar, fat and salt in food.
According to USA Today:
"Parents need to carefully consider the types of foods they give to young children at home and in restaurants ... Repeated exposure builds taste preferences."
A separate study also found that diets high in processed foods, fat and sugar are lowering children's IQ. Researchers found that a predominantly processed-food diet at the age of 3 is directly associated with a lower IQ at age 8.5. Foods rich in vitamins and minerals, on the other hand, helped boost kids' mental performance.
As The Guardian reported:
"Every one-point increase in the study's dietary pattern score – a record of processed fat intake – was associated with a 1.67-point fall in IQ … The brain grows at its fastest rate during the first three years of life.
"It is possible that good nutrition during this period may encourage optimal brain growth," the report added."
As a parent, one of the best gifts you can give your child is a strong nutritional start. The first years of life represent a time of rapid development, during which your child's language, cognitive, social and motor skills are developed.
During the first three years of life, the brain also grows at its fastest rate, and this represents a crucial window of development during which proper nutrition is essential. If your child does not get healthy foods (and ideally first breast milk) during this time, his future intelligence could be impacted.
Your Child's Intelligence and Future Food Choices Depend on You
A new study from British researchers revealed just how big an impact a poor nutritional start can have on your kids. Those who ate a predominantly processed food diet at age 3 had lower IQ scores at age 8.5. For each measured increase in processed foods, participants had a 1.67-point decrease in IQ.
As you might suspect, the opposite also held true, with those eating healthier diets experiencing higher IQ levels. For each measured increase in dietary score, which meant the child was eating more fruits and vegetables for instance, there was a 1.2-point increase in IQ.
Separate research also highlighted just how quickly kids pick up on, and learn to prefer, a junk-food diet.
When parents fed their preschool-aged children junk foods high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats, it had a lasting impact on their taste preferences. All of the children tested showed preferences for junk foods, and all (even those who were just 3 years old!) were also able to recognize some soda, fast-food and junk food brands.
The researchers concluded what you probably already suspect: kids who were exposed to junk food, soda and fast food, via advertising and also because their parents fed them these foods, learned to recognize and prefer these foods over healthier choices.
Interestingly, recent studies also show a reduction in IQ when fluoride water is used.
Most U.S. Kids' Diets are Disasters
Last year another sobering study was released that found nearly half of the calories consumed by average 2- to 18-year-olds in the United States came from junk foods. The top sources of empty calories that made up half of these calories included just six food categories:
- Fruit drinks
- Dairy desserts (ice cream, etc.)
- Grain desserts (cookies, cake, doughnuts, etc.)
- Whole milk
What this list consists of is, primarily, sugar and fructose, which echoes the top source of calories for U.S. adults as well. The number one source of calories in the United States is high fructose corn syrup, a compound that will lead to chronic degenerative diseases and make you fat.
With a diet like this, it's no wonder that childhood obesity has become an epidemic in the United States and many other parts of the world. If your diet is in large part fructose, the sugar found in soda, fruit juice and countless other processed food products, it will be virtually impossible to stay thin, not to mention healthy.
Although the American Beverage Association claims there is "no association between high fructose corn syrup and obesity," a long lineup of scientific studies suggest otherwise. For example:
- Dr. David Ludwig of Boston Children’s Hospital did a study of the effects of sugar-sweetened drinks on obesity in children. He found that for each additional serving of a sugar-sweetened drink, both body mass index and odds of obesity increased in the children he studied.
- The Fizzy Drink Study in Christchurch, England explored the effects on obesity when soda machines were removed from schools for one year. In the schools where the machines were removed, obesity stayed constant. In the schools where soda machines remained, obesity rates continued to rise.
- In a recent study, 16 volunteers were fed a controlled diet including high levels of fructose. Ten weeks later, the volunteers had produced new fat cells around their hearts, livers and other digestive organs. They also showed signs of food-processing abnormalities linked to diabetes and heart disease. A second group of volunteers who were fed a similar diet, but with glucose replacing fructose, did not have these problems.
Of course, obesity is not the only health risk your child faces if he eats a diet consisting mainly of processed foods and snacks. Along with the potential for lowered IQ mentioned above, a junk food diet can also set the stage for asthma, eczema, and a variety of allergies, inflammatory conditions and autoimmune diseases.
In fact, many of the top diseases plaguing the United States are diet-related, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The National Institutes of Health even states that four of the six leading causes of death in the U.S. are linked to unhealthy diets.
Nutritional deficiencies in your child's first years of life can even lead to deficits in brain function that put them at risk of behavioral problems -- from hyperactivity to aggression -- that can last into the teenage years.
So the importance of proper nutrition simply cannot be overstated.
You Wouldn't Let Your Child Run Across a Busy Street …
Most parents go to great lengths to keep their children safe. You hold their hand when they walk across the street, teach them to stay away from a hot stove and tell them not to talk to strangers. Yet, the majority of parents feed their children potentially harmful food without a thought for the later consequences.
It's not the occasional treat here and there that I'm referring to, either. It's the fact that most toddlers recognize the sign of the "golden arches" long before they are speaking in full sentences.
Because they are often raised on French fries, fast-food hamburgers and orange soda, or if "raised" is a bit of a stretch, are taught that French fries, chicken fingers and soda is an acceptable meal (worse yet, they may come to think of it as a reward).
As British chef and food advocate Jamie Oliver explains in the video below, our food culture has changed so drastically over the last 30 years, a majority of young children of today do not know what fresh, whole food is.
Children today can't identify foods, let alone figure out where they come from or how they grow.
Oliver shows how the three aspects of the "food landscape," home, school, and main street, have all abandoned real food in favor of quick, cheap, processed foods. Three decades ago, the food available in each of these three areas was mostly fresh and grown locally. Now the majority of foods served, whether at home, in school or in restaurants, are highly processed foods, filled with sugars and chemical additives.
Your Child's Healthy Diet is Up to You
Children will simply not know which foods are healthy unless you, as a parent, teach it to them.
Food is a part of crucial lifestyle choices first learned at home, so you need to educate yourself about proper nutrition and the dangers of junk food and processed foods in order to change the food culture of your entire family. To give your child the best start at life, and help instill healthy habits that will last a lifetime, you must lead by example.
If you're not sure where to start, I recommend reading my nutrition plan first. This will provide you with the foundation you need to start making healthy food choices for your family.
The simplest way back toward health, for children and adults alike, is to focus on WHOLE foods -- foods that have not been processed or altered from their original state; food that has been grown or raised as nature intended, without the use of chemical additives, pesticides and fertilizers.
You, a family member, or someone you pay will need to invest time in the kitchen cooking fresh wholesome meals from these whole foods so that you can break free from the processed food diet that will ultimately kill you or at least make you sick.
By doing this, and eating meals together as a family, your children will receive the proper nutrition their bodies need during the important developmental years while also developing a love for whole fresh foods that will last them a lifetime.