Diet, parental behaviour and preschool can boost children's IQ
25th January 2013
Supplementing children’s diets with fish oil, enrolling them in nursery and engaging them in interactive reading all turn out to be effective ways to raise a young child’s intelligence, according to a new report published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
Using a technique called meta-analysis, the researchers combined the findings from existing studies to evaluate the overall effectiveness of each type of intervention. They were then able to create a database to learn what works and what doesn’t work to raise people’s intelligence. All of the studies in the database rely on a normal population (participants without clinical diagnoses of intellectual disabilities), focus on interventions that are sustained over time, use widely accepted measures of intelligence and are randomly controlled trials (participants selected at random to receive one of the interventions).
Overall, the results of the meta-analyses indicated that certain dietary and environmental interventions can be effective in raising children’s IQ. Supplementing pregnant women and newborns with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, foods rich in Omega-3, were found to boost children’s IQ by more than 3.5 points. These essential fatty acids may help raise intelligence by providing the building blocks for nerve cell development that the body cannot produce on its own. There is insufficient research, however, to determine whether other types of supplements — including iron, B-complex vitamins, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and zinc — have beneficial effects on intelligence.
Enrolling an economically disadvantaged child into an early education intervention was found to raise his or her IQ by more than four points; interventions that specifically included a center-based education component raised a child’s IQ by more than seven points. The researchers hypothesized that early education interventions may help to raise children’s IQ by increasing their exposure to complex environments that are cognitively stimulating and demanding. It’s not clear, however, whether these results apply more broadly to kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Interventions focused on interactive reading — teaching parents how to engage their children while reading with them — were found to raise children’s IQ by over 6 points. These interventions do not seem to have an effect for children over 4 years old, suggesting that the interventions may accelerate language development, which, in turn, boosts IQ.
Sending a child to preschool was found to raise his or her IQ by more than four points, and preschools that include a language development component were found to boost IQ by more than seven points. The link between preschool and intelligence could be a function of increased exposure to language or the result of the overall cognitive complexity of the preschool environment.
“Our current findings strengthen earlier conclusions that complex environments build intelligence, but do cast doubt on others, including evidence that earlier interventions are always most effective,” Protzko explained. “Overall, identifying the link between essential fatty acids and intelligence gives rise to tantalizing new questions for future research and we look forward to exploring this finding.”
Protzko J et al. How to Make a Young Child Smarter: Evidence From the Database of Raising Intelligence. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2013; 8 (1): 25 DOI: 10.1177/1745691612462585
Categories: Nutritional News, Children's Health