Welcome to The Deep science and technology column where we cover topics from the deep sea to deep space and beyond. Several interesting stories from the medical file today. Make sure you read the column title!
A group of scientists have recently published a paper based on their study of participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which is tracking the long term health and well-being of around 14,000 children born in 1991 and 1992.
They’ve found that a diet high in fats, sugars, and processed foods in early childhood may lower IQ, while a diet packed full of vitamins and nutrients may do the opposite. Parents completed questionnaires, detailing the types and frequency of the food and drink their children consumed when they were 3, 4, 7 and 8.5 years old.
Three dietary patterns were identified: "processed" high in fats and sugar intake; "traditional" high in meat and vegetable intake; and "health conscious" high in salad, fruit and vegetables, rice and pasta. Scores were calculated for each pattern for each child.
The children’s IQ was measured using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children when they were 8.5 years old. In all, complete data were available for just under 4,000 children.
The results showed that eating a diet of predominantly processed food at the age of 3 was associated with a lower IQ at the age of 8.5, even if the diet improved after that age. Every 1 point increase in dietary pattern score was associated with a 1.67 point fall in IQ.
On the other hand, a healthy diet was associated with a higher IQ at the age of 8.5, with every 1 point increase in dietary pattern linked to a 1.2 point increase in IQ. Dietary patterns between the ages of 4 and 7 had no impact on IQ.
Well, that certainly makes me worry about all the toddlers I see holding the bags of chips and sugared sodas. And the sugared sodas bring up another interesting point.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has very quietly removed saccharin, a common artificial sweetener, and its salts from the agency’s list of hazardous substances. Saccharin is no longer considered a potential hazard to human health.
Saccharin is a white crystalline powder found in diet soft drinks, chewing gum and juice. Saccharin was labeled a potentially cancer-causing substance in the 1980s. In the late 1990s, the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer re-evaluated the available scientific information on saccharin and its salts and concluded that it is not a potential human carcinogen. Because the scientific basis for remaining on EPA’s lists no longer applies, the agency has removed saccharin and its salts from its lists.
So, instead of buying your toddler that bag of cookies she’s whining for, why don’t you buy her an apple instead? Or a diet soft drink? She might be smart enough to thank you for it later!