Children who grow up in economically challenging circumstances often underperform in the classroom and some are more prone to be disruptive in school and elsewhere compared to their peers from more affluent homes. Sociologists point to many things that contribute to this phenomenon but often overlook the fundamental role nutrition plays. Improving a child’s nutritional foundation has been shown through research to have a direct impact on IQ, academic performance and impulse control.
Highly respected medical expert Dr. Charles B. Simone recently reviewed several previously conducted nutritional studies and highlighted some interesting results in a report he wrote. He said the human brain consumes about 20 percent of all the calories taken each day and the brain does not function well if there are few calories in the diet and if the diet lacks proper vitamin/mineral intake.
“Studies involving hundreds of thousands of children from the United States and around the world show this could lead to poor brain functioning, low I.Q., poor impulse control and bullying,” Dr. Simone said. “High-fat foods, junk food, and lack of vitamins, minerals, fruits and vegetables lead to a higher risk.”
In one study involving more than 1.1 million students from 800 New York City public schools, researchers saw academic performance rise by 16 percent when the schools increased fruits and vegetables and decreased fats and sugars according to recommendations of the World Health Organization. And the number of learning disabled children dropped from 125,000 to 74,000 in just one year. In another study involving the learning disabled, children improved to the point they were no longer two or more grades behind in performance.
Another study Dr. Simone cited had fewer total participants (1,750 children and young adults) but included a people from Arizona, California, Oklahoma, Missouri, Belgium, England, Scotland and Wales. This randomized, controlled trial involved the introduction of vitamin and mineral supplements to the participants’ diets. There was an increase in nonverbal IQ, regardless of formula, location, age, race, gender, or research team composition. And children who entered the study undernourished had their IQ rise by an average of 16 points.
Children in another study who took vitamin and mineral supplements over a three-month span had significantly higher gains in grade level and also improved academically at twice the rate of those who did not take supplements.
Nine juvenile correctional facilities in Alabama, California and Virginia using the same WHO recommendations regarding the replacement of fats and sugars with more fruits and vegetables saw a 48 percent decrease in incidences of violent and non-violent antisocial behavior among the 8,047 juveniles in the facilities. The changes were thought to be tied to the increase of vitamins and minerals in their diets.
Citing yet another study, Dr. Simone said, “Dietary intake of 13 vitamins and 11 minerals was measured for 165 adult prisoners and 257 confined juvenile delinquents. Those who consumed the higher amounts of nutrients were less violent and antisocial behavior fell by 40 percent. In addition, randomized trials also confirm that people who were given vitamins and minerals were less violent and exhibited less non-violent antisocial behavior.”
According to Dr. Simone, the most common nutrients tied to IQ and academic performance are pyridoxine, folic acid, thiamin, niacin, vitamin C and pantothenic acid in order of importance. The most common minerals are iron and magnesium.
Vitamins found to have an impact on behavior in order of importance include vitamins A and E, riboflavin, and B12. The minerals tied to behavior include iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, zinc, selenium, manganese, chromium and molybdenum.
Dr. Simone recommends parents who believe their child’s academic performance and/or behavior may be hindered by nutrition to have it checked. A physician can order a blood test to see vitamin and mineral levels and then parents can look to supplement those that fall below the suggested levels.
“Although the United States is a wealthy nation, many of our children are at risk of eating a poor diet – high fat, high sodium, low fiber, and low intake of vitamins and minerals,” Dr. Simone said. “Even if you eat a “normal healthy” diet, you still may be at risk for marginal deficiencies of nutrients. So take a vitamin/mineral supplement.”