Certainly some aspects of intelligence are genetic, but there are many things you can do to give your child an edge. Quick tip: chips aren’t on the list.
Some things that affect children’s IQ happen in the womb and can no longer be changed. Another important factor that play a role in childhood intelligence is environmental toxin exposure such a flame retardants and pesticides, which can indirectly affect brain function via negative effects on the thyroid. Lead exposure, even at levels considered to be safe, have been shown to affect children’s intelligence levels.
Before we get into the heart of today’s article, we need to have a quick review on brain cell anatomy. For regular readers understanding of the mitochondria is usually all you need to know, but we have to move further out in the cell for this one. All the was out to the cell membrane, made up of the infamous “lipid bilayer.” Basically, the outside membrane of your cell is made up of a sandwich, with a fat soluble aspect as the center and a water-soluble aspect as the bread of the sandwich. Because of this arrangement, things moving inside and outside of the cell are tightly regulated. Few things can pass through unaided; most have to be shuttled through pores in the cell membrane.
The makeup of the cell membrane is very dependent upon the fats we eat. Unhealthy, animal based saturated fats will lead to a hard and stiff cell membrane, negatively impacting the transport of stuff in and out. On the other hand, healthier fats like the infamous omega 3 fatty acids as well as mono and polyunsaturated fats in avocados and nuts will make your cell membranes more fluid and adaptable.
So it would make sense that healthier fats will improve brain function in all kinds of ways. There are very clear associations between depression and omega 3 intake. Intake of healthier fats benefits both migraine and epilepsy patients as well.
So can we use these same tools to help your child be smarter?
Turns out this may actually be true. In this particular study, researchers looked at 70 7-9 year olds and compared the dietary intake of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids on the performance during the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Assessment Battery . Here’s what they found:
- When children had high intakes of omega 6 over omega 3, if the child still took in a decent amount of omega−3 in the diet, they had better performance.
- When children had more equal amounts of omega 6 and omega 3, the kids had better performance when the overall amount of omega−3 and 6 were lower.
In other words, higher intakes of omega 3 were still protective even when there were too many omega 6 fatty acids present in the diet. As an example, if you choose to feed your child brain robbing Doritos, at least make sure it’s on the side of some wild caught salmon.
However, if the amount of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids were closer to equal, the kid’s brains were better off if the intake of both fats was lower. In other words, if you’re not going to feed your child salmon, you’d better plan on scrapping the chips.
There are plenty of ways to get your child to eat more intelligence boosting omega 3 fats. These include:
- Wild caught fish (Keegan loves Morey’s wild caught salmon from Costco)
- Nuts and seeds
- Omega-3 eggs
Ok, so maybe it’s going to be hard to get your kid to ask for algae at the dinner table, but the rest are all foods that most kids can enjoy if they are exposed to in the right way. Better yet, get them started as a toddler so that there is no need to introduce these foods–he or she will already be eating them.