What young children eat influences how well they remember, according to a study from the University of Illinois. Researchers investigated the relationship between performance on direct and indirect memory tasks and intake of various dietary components, including saturated fats, omega-3 fats, and refined sugar, in 52 children between the ages of 7- and 9-years-old. Results showed that saturated fat intake was associated with poor memory on both tests, while children who consumed the most omega-3s showed significantly higher memory performance. Eye movement measures of relational memory was inversely linked to sugar intake. That is, as sugar intake increased, memory decreased.
In Perspective: Previous studies on animals and seniors have shown a direct link between diet and hippocampal function, the area of the brain associated with memory. This area has amazing plasticity as a result of lifestyle habits. It increases in both cell number and region size in response to daily exercise (especially vigorous activity), diet, social interaction, and brain challenges such as learning a new language. This study shows that children also are influenced by one of those factors: diet. Yet another reason to avoid the drive-through and focus on healthy foods, such as omega-3-rich salmon!
Baym C, Khan N, Monti J, et al: Dietary lipids are differentially associated with hippocampal-dependent relational memory in prepubescent children, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2014;99:1026-1032.