The worse the diet quality of children, the worse they score on cognitive tests - especially boys, research finds.
The researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio University Hospital and the Kuopio Research Institute of Exercise Medicine in Finland tested 428 children aged six to eight years to assess the association between scores on Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and the Baltic Sea Diet Score (BSDS) with scores on a cognitive test.
The results showed that among all children, diet quality was “directly associated” with the brain test score – a relationship far stronger in boys than girls.
Within this boys with the lowest consumption of fruit and high-fibre grain products had lower cognitive test scores than other boys.
“Adequate nutrition is the foundation of normal physical and cognitive development in children. Undernourishment and low availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods have been found to decrease cognitive functions in children,” they wrote in the British Journal of Nutrition.
“Nevertheless, abundance of foods containing lots of sucrose and saturated fat has been linked to cognitive decline in adults. In fact, unhealthy food choices may be a more important determinant of decreased cognition than undernourishment among children in developed countries, including Finland.”
With DASH and BSDS as a reference, the study highlighted the importance of a diet high in vitamin-, polyphenol- and flavonoid-rich fruit, berries, vegetables and fish and low in red meat and sausages in the normal development of cognition in children.