Word of Mouth

New study says junk food makes you dumb as well as fat

Hot on the heels of the new USDA nutrition guidelines, which basically boil down to "lay off the calories, fatty, and consume a vegetable once in a while," comes a study that gives you more incentive to eat right:

Junk food doesn't just cause you to gain weight; it also makes you a dumbass. A dumbass with a big ass.

For several years, researchers at Bristol University in England followed 14,000 kids born in the early 1990s, controlling such factors as income differences, access to toys and parental education levels. And the results were startling: Nutritional differences in the first three years of life accounted for an IQ gap of as much as five points by the time the kids turned eight.

The scientists grouped their subjects by three diet types: one that was high in fat, sugar and processed foods; one that consisted mostly of meat and potatoes; and one that was purposefully health-conscious and full of fruits and veggies. And they found that improvements in diet directly correlated with improvements in IQ.

What's more, diet changes after age three didn't really help (kids who ate junk between ages four and seven didn't necessarily deviate from the norm) -- and the effects, claim the researchers, last a lifetime.

So watch it, parents, when you load your kids up with chips and soda. Because if this study is right, you're not just making your kids fat, you're also making them stoopid.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk