A recent article appearing in the London newspaper The Daily Mail reported the results of a very large study performed in the United Kingdom claiming to show that eating Junk Food prevented children from achieving the IQ they could have otherwise. As you may know, I am interested in how improving nutrition helps us be better people, so I was intrigued, and read this one with great interest.
The data for this study was harvested from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (Avon=the river/county in England, not the cosmetic). This huge study looked at many aspects of children, their health, habits and diet. It took years to compile and sort through all the data they collected during this study. Researchers are still going through it to discover new information.
The researchers studied 3,966 children over 5-1/2 years and published their findings in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Now, as a general rule of research, the larger a study is, then the more reliable and trustworthy are the results. If this had been a study of 29 children, you would not be wasting your time right now reading this post. But, studying this many kids for this long a time-period gives this study great weight and the findings must be presented.
What they found was that in children, consuming Junk Food (highly-processed, high-sugar, high-fat) was directly linked to a lowering of IQ (Intelligence Quotient, a standard of measuring a kid's smarts). They researchers of this study balanced the data so that income, location and family situation would be controlled for, thus taking those factors out of the equation. They only studied diet in these children and found out what we all already thought we knew was true, Junk Food is just that, JUNK.
My generation and the generations since have been brain-washed by TV Commercials to believe that this JUNK food is just a trivial little thing, not harmful, and that you are being a Mean-Parent if you don't let your child have the cereal with the rabbit on the box. We as parents have been seduced by the friendly clown icon of the largest corporate restaurant chain in the world into believing that processed, fake McFood really won't harm our kids; it's all just fun and games, right?
Well, let me speak plainly... Pretending that what you put into your child's mouth is trivial or fun, or not really that important, is deluded thinking. Guess what, everyone likes the taste of sweets and junk food. The multi-national corporations who run the food industry spend BILLIONS each year on all sorts of chemical taste and color enhancers to make their food look and taste good. You are not being a good parent if you let your toddler choose what she will eat, just like you are not a good parent if you let your 10 year-old decide to drive on the interstate, or let you 12 year-old decide to smoke. There are reasons we don't let children Vote, and now you have a proven scientifically valid reason to be the one (the Parent) who choses what your child puts into his/her mouth.
Please share this with every parent who is raising and feeding a child you care about. Although this study looked at children from 3 years old to 8.5 years old, these findings certainly apply to children of all ages, and quite possibly to adults as well.
Please post any questions you have about what "junk food" is or is not...