Cause and effect eg. processed food and children's development

(87 Posts)
jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 07:20:35

I've just heard on the morning news that a new study suggests that young children with a bad diet including lots of processed food have been found to later develop to have lower IQ's than their peers.

Interesting. However I'm wondering if this could be a classic example of something I've suspected in research about development for some time.

That is, how sure can they or we be that this is really a causal relationship. Have the factors accompanying this poor diet really been taken sufficiently into account.

Things like socioeconomic class, poverty, struggling parents, and the things that may go with this package such as less stimulating experiences, less engaged parents, less communication between parents and children etc. etc.

Scientific research needs to be rigorous, and yet you hardly ever hear mention of the degree of causality that is being suggested. Or how accompanying factors have been considered.

A causal relationship is always just presumed.

At least by the media.

I think there are many things which affect our development more than diet. Though a good diet is very important for our health and well-being.

What do others think ? Especially about the science aspect ?

jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 07:22:31

Sorry didn't mean to post in "conception", only on the talk boards.

Can anyone move to more suitable place?

Thanks smile

onimolap Tue 08-Feb-11 07:30:27

That it is plausible.

Fats are very important in the brain (structure and function). If your diet consists of food with poorer fats, I'm not at all surprised there's a measurable effect, especially in the formative years.

jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 07:46:31

[Hmm]

But what about the other effects?

Have they really been taken into account?
And if so, how was this done ?

In my work with children I've had lots of opportunities to see the importance of both communication and stimulating experiences in children's development.

I think there's an over emphasis on diet with regard to children's development, behaviour etc.

But more than the specifics of this research, my point is a general one.

Whenever you hear of research ( via the media) a causal relationship is always presumed.

With interesting research regarding people, lifestyles, and development, it just isn't that straight-forward !

onimolap Tue 08-Feb-11 07:55:04

Here's a link to the Telegraph's account. It was a study of 14,000 families, published in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (anyone know what its standing is?), and it said potential confounders were excluded.

What annoys me is the headline, which says good diet boosts IQ. The study indicates nothing of the sort: it shows poor diet can inhibit it. Not the same thing at all.

jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 08:13:04

Thanks onimolap. I look forward to reading your link when time allows. (School run beckons ! )

My suspicion is that "potential confounders" have been excluded without sufficient scientific rigour !

jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 08:19:20

Have now read article and will consider.

Note though that there is very little consideration given to accompanying factors
(As is always the case !)

onimolap Tue 08-Feb-11 08:22:58

What we need is a subscriber to the JECH to tell us about it properly - the press reporting of the study is never going to give enough detail.

FreudianSlippery Tue 08-Feb-11 08:24:31

I would expect it is implicated, but it's something I've not devoted too much thought to. I just figure it's not good to have too much processed food anyway, due to physical health, so we keep it fairly (not totally) limited. A good rule of thumb is that if the ingredients list has too many items, or if they are random scientific gobbledegook, don't eat it much

onimolap Tue 08-Feb-11 10:15:46

Here's another link - to SKY, but there are links therein to the authors of the study (Avon longitudinal study, Bristol University).

Lancelottie Tue 08-Feb-11 10:25:12

You hardly ever hear of the confounding factors because that would be quite boring (pages and pages of very, very similar plots and statistics, I should think), but yes, in a properly carried out study, they should have been considered and probably were, otherwise the reviewers should have sent the researchers back to have a re-think.

Always a good question to ask, though!

I remember a study showing that 'manual-oral transmission of lead residue in soil' [or kids sticking mucky hands in mouths] was correlated with lower IQ, but the authors 'could not rule out the possibility of inverse correlation effects of IQ on manual-oral transmission pathways and frequency', which I took to mean that thick kids eat more mud...

Lancelottie Tue 08-Feb-11 10:25:45

sorry, 'inverse CAUSALITY', not correlation.

onimolap Tue 08-Feb-11 10:26:57

Lancelottie: love that example!

onimolap Tue 08-Feb-11 10:37:56
Ariesgirl Tue 08-Feb-11 10:47:51

I'm of the same opinion about all stuff regarding what is put in a child's mouth. That includes FF vs BF.

jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 12:13:13

Great example Lancelottie.

Inverse causality looks like a distinct possibility on that one !

Anyone have any other examples of research which has given you a distinct hmm feeling of scepticism ? (sp?!)

jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 12:35:55

Thanks for link onimolap -

Have just sent an email to kate northstone, one of the researchers, to let her know about our discussion, and something of my thoughts on this one !

Even though mine are now 9 and 11 perhaps we might keep pizza night to once a week !

Another thought though, have they included making allowances for breast-feeding, as this has been shown to have a positive effect on IQ, and could easily be a confounding factor here ?

Poppet45 Tue 08-Feb-11 13:35:40

Okay, OP do you know much about the use of statistics in science? ANOVA tests, Poisson distributions that sort ot thing? Basically there are dozens of carefully worked out mathematical formulae that are used in research papers during the analysis phase which allow researchers to tease out individual variables from a whole mass of data and check for correlations, causal relationships that sort of thing. They look like a foreign language but yes they mean that to a 95 per cent confidence interval, researchers can generally be sure that what they think is happening is happening. The problem is they are very dry, dusty, and hard going to read through so they don't make a newspaper article which has maybe 500 words to convey the whole story. However if you're interested, or still need to be convinced it's not all a big con, you might want to start reading about the use of biological statistics. Having had to do just that during my degree I would personally recommend you didn't

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 08-Feb-11 14:37:29

Hello. We're going to move this thread to In the News - we're sure it'll get some more posts once it's there...

Hammy02 Tue 08-Feb-11 14:56:54

It is more likely that the type of parents that feed their children rubbish are less likely to encourage their children in their education, read to them every night etc. It is the same as the nonsense arguement that playing a musical instrument makes children achieve more academically. Noooo. Again, the type of parents that encourage their child to play an instrument will be the same types that encourage their children academically. Duh.

Chil1234 Tue 08-Feb-11 15:49:43

There's quite a well-known study that analysed the behaviour and development of two groups of prisoners.... one on standard prison food and the other on a much more nutritious diet. That showed quite a strong correlation between good nutrition and things like calmer behaviour. In the prison example, of course, it's a thoroughly controlled group and the effects were seen over a relatively short period. So external factors like poverty or upbringing could be eliminated.

Jamie Oliver's campaign seemed to suggest that children on a better diet were better equipped to concentrate at school. I don't think it's too big a leap to suggest that if better nutrition leads to better behaviour in adults and an improved ability to concentrate in children then a still-developing child is more likely to reach its intellectual potential

jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 15:53:37

Hi Poppet, In answer to your question about how much I know about the use of statistics in science -

I know a fair amount as I have a degree in science (geology) from Bristol University (who are incidentally involved in this research) We learnt about and used statistics in my geology, geography and economics courses. Later I've used them during small research projects as a psychiatric nurse and early years teacher. My DH has a PhD in palaentology, and we have many friends involved in research. with my daughter I've taken part in two research projects at Cambridge University (as participants!)

So, I know more than many people - enough to be annoyed at the way science is reported in the media !
But less than experts such as yourself.
I understand about normal distributions etc.
That sort of level.
I've used a statistical method for comparing characteristics of two different populations.

I feel the media could assume a slightly higher level of scientific understanding in it's readership.
It could for example discuss what the main "confounding factors" were found to be. It could tell us what level of confidence was arrived at during the research.

There is often a lot of detail about the research methods, and too little devoted to the actual conclusions.

For example in the reporting of this research soome of the quoted comments were that a good diet is important because of the levels of obesity in children. But this research was actually nothing to do with that, seperate though related, issue.

Hammy - Great to see someone picking up on my wider point !
Exactly the sort of thing I mean ! wink

Loopynoo Tue 08-Feb-11 16:02:51

Hi all, below is the abstract of said article. Think it might help the discussion...

My own opinion? I think as with most things in life you get what you put in, and our DCs are no different, however a little bit of "bad" food ixed in wiht a healthy balanced diet is probably best and this article does little to change/influence what i feed DS.

jech.bmj.com/content/early/2011/01/21/jech.2010.11 1955.abstract?sid=58a861cf-c1b1-4090-8574-eb134b16 4d8e

Title:
Are dietary patterns in childhood associated with IQ at 8 years of age? A population-based cohort study

Abstract

Background:
Little is known about the effects of overall diet in childhood and intelligence later in life.

Methods:
The current study, based on the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, uses data on children's diet reported by parents in food-frequency questionnaires at 3, 4, 7 and 8.5 years of age. Dietary patterns were identified using principal-components analysis and scores computed at each age. IQ was assessed using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children at 8.5 years. Data on a number of confounders were collected, and complete data were available for 3966 children.

Results:
After adjustment, the ‘processed’ (high fat and sugar content) pattern of diet at 3 years of age was negatively associated with IQ assessed at 8.5 years of age—a 1 SD increase in dietary pattern score was associated with a 1.67 point decrease in IQ (95% CI &#8722;2.34 to &#8722;1.00; p<0.0001). The ‘health-conscious’ (salad, rice, pasta, fish, fruit) pattern at 8.5 years was positively associated with IQ: a 1 SD increase in pattern score led to a 1.20 point increase in IQ (95% CI 0.52 to 1.88; p=0.001).

Conclusion:
There is evidence that a poor diet associated with high fat, sugar and processed food content in early childhood may be associated with small reductions in IQ in later childhood, while a healthy diet, associated with high intakes of nutrient rich foods described at about the time of IQ assessment may be associated with small increases in IQ.

jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 16:51:26

This research just shouts to me that there are underlying reasons why some of the children are getting a much a better diet than others.

Call me skeptical, but I've yet to be convinced that these underlying factors have been given due consideration !

It's not exactly a controlled trial, is it ?

But, now this thread has been moved by MNHQ to "In the news" I hope people will feel free to discuss all aspects of this research.

How important do you feel the diet of young children is to their future development, intelligence, and well-being ?

Personally, as I've said, I think it's more important for our physical health, and that other things are more important factors in determining our intellectual, emotional, and social health etc.

jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 17:20:25

An equally interesting possibility to consider,

- that what we do with our children and our level of engagement with them in the early years could be responsible for this variation of 5 points in their IQ rating by the age of 8. ( Probably more than 5 points, as we've been told that such confounding factors have been taken into account, so the original differences in IQ were probably greater )

Does anyone know of any further research along these lines ?

onimolap Tue 08-Feb-11 17:24:52

It is however a very large observational study (14,000+) which has been running since 1992.

If you follow the link in my post of 10:37:56 you can get a free day's access to the paper, and I expect that will explain what confounders have been allowed for any why.

jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 17:33:00

Only results for 4000 children though, if I read the results section right ?

Thanks for all the links Onimo !

It's all very interesting smile

I don't have access to the full article, but BBC states that things like social class, duration of BF etc were taken into consideration, but without seeing the methodology (or having enough memory of my degree to make sense of said methodology even if I could see it) I'm not sure.

It does make intuitive sense that better nutrition = better development. I'm not willing to make a control subject of my next baby (whenever they come long) and feed them junk to see if they turn out daft though. wink

onimolap Tue 08-Feb-11 17:40:18

I haven't had the time to look at the full paper for the data on the confounders, number of children studied for each confounder (have they drawn on any of their many other studies?), how all this was then applied to the IQ data, nor if/how partial data was included.

jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 17:48:07

Looked into accessing a free day's viewing of the paper, Onimolap, but a little nervous about signing up for a "free trial subscription"

Would be very interested to read the whole paper though, and come to a more considered judgement about whether my hunch seems right ( at least to my satisfaction )

Perhaps I could check it out via a local library. If they haven't all been closed down yet wink

onimolap Tue 08-Feb-11 17:51:05

It's always interesting to see what the big studies come up with.

The other one going at the moment is the Millennium Child - started on 2000. I wonder if any findings from Avon will be replicated in the Millennium one?

jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 17:52:01

Or maybe write to the researchers and request a copy of their paper. I gather (especially from DH) that this is common practice in research.

jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 17:55:40

Hi onimo

Yes, I'm fascinated by the Millenium Child research and Child of our Time series.

Especially as my two born just either side of the millenium ! (99 and 01)

BodleianBabe Tue 08-Feb-11 18:57:13

I thought the same as you jugglingjo when I heard this on the news this morning.

It's that whole lies, damn lies and statistics thing. I see things like this and would love to see the whole research project and see exactly what factors they take into account.

I would be interested to see the difference in IQ of two children born with the same IQ but one is given the healthiest diet possible whilst living with disinterested parents who pay them little attention and offer no stimulation with one who has a poor diet but is encouraged and stimulated.

I would imagine that having healthy diet gives a child the best start to learn and develop but if they are not in the correct enviroment to progress then the effects of the good diet will be limited???

jugglingjo Tue 08-Feb-11 19:27:22

Yes, Bodleian,

In the interests of science I think you'd need at least 4 children wink

1) Poor diet, poor environmental stimulation

2) Poor diet, good environmental stimulation

3) Good diet, poor environmental stimulation

4) Best of everything !

Or, given they had 4000 children taking part, you could have 1000 children in each group wink

ClaireOB Wed 09-Feb-11 09:53:06

The Behind the Headlines team at NHS Choices have reviewed this in their usual balanced and sensible way, including reasons why caution is needed in interpreting the associations found.

Maria2007loveshersleep Wed 09-Feb-11 10:31:19

I heard about this report on the radio yesterday & was shocked because a guy who was talking about it said that: 'essentially, it's garbage in, garbage out'. I think the expression 'garbage in, garbage out' when you're talking about human beings is shocking & unacceptable & goes a long way to describe the simplistic way children are viewed in our society.

I disagree with this kind of research on a matter of principle anyway, as I more generally disagree with the whole concept of IQ. I say this as someone who loves eating & cooking good quality food, but I find these cause-effect ideas about food given to children leading to this or that in the future utterly simplistic & very bad science.

But on a very basic level, I strongly disagree with expressions such as 'garbage in, garbage out' or 'you get what you put in' (sorry, loopynoo). Children are not boxes or machines or our creations. They have their own personalities & they have a possibility to turn their lives around: lots of them do. They would be much better served to be supported (and there's so much need for support, in so many ways) rather than their parents given patronizing advice about good diet etc, hoping to 'boost their IQ'. How utterly beside the point that is.

ouryve Wed 09-Feb-11 13:21:40

A lot of those in the second category (Poor diet, good environmental stimulation) would likely be like my DS2, though - his poor diet is due to sensory issues and oral motor difficulties related to his autism, so the results would be skewed, anyhow.

onimolap Wed 09-Feb-11 13:25:19

I can't remember which channel it was on, but I did catch a more measured commentary yesterday, which was saying that this demonstrated a small physical effect - stressing the small, as there were other important factors as well.

That struck me as reasonable.

jugglingjo Wed 09-Feb-11 16:02:27

Perhaps they'd done their important MN research first.

"Other important factors" !!

Very interesting wink

CoteDAzur Wed 09-Feb-11 16:15:03

My copy of The Times clearly says "Even adjusting for factors such as mother's education and social class..." so I don't know why OP thinks scientists who carry out such studies know less about "the science aspect" than herself.

CoteDAzur Wed 09-Feb-11 16:18:21

"children born with the same IQ"

How exactly do you propose to make newborns take IQ tests?

onimolap Wed 09-Feb-11 16:41:30

Jugglingjo: it was the presenter/commentator who said that, not someone connected directly to the study.

Cotedazur: it wasn't I who posted about the babe's IQ, but I read that post as hyperbole intended to undermine. Have I missed something?

CoteDAzur Wed 09-Feb-11 17:06:20

Boeotian says "I would be interested to see the difference in IQ of two children born with the same IQ but one is given the healthiest diet possible..." which I took as a serious post.

I can't see how you can possibly determine babies' IQs or even if they have any intelligence in the problem-solving sense of the word (which IQ tests measure) at that point.

CoteDAzur Wed 09-Feb-11 17:08:14

Bodleian. Stupid auto-correct.

CrystalQueen Wed 09-Feb-11 17:17:32

I don't know how people think a "proper" study would work. It's easy with rats to feed half well and half poorly. It would be ethically dubious to do the same with children, to properly remove confounding factors!

jugglingjo Wed 09-Feb-11 17:26:51

Am a bit hmm (raised eyebrow) at CoteDAzur's post.

Science is all about asking questions.

So is life ! So is Mumsnet wink

I have never claimed to know more about this research than those who carried it out.

I'm just raising some perfectly reasonable scientific questions about it's conclusions.

As 1) A mother
2) An early years practitioner
3) A science graduate (from same University that carried out this research)

I feel it is reasonable of me to discuss this research and it's conclusions with other mothers and interested individuals on Mumsnet.

Of course you are also entitled to your opinion, and you may disagree, either with the existence or the content, of my comments.

My main query is whether these "other factors" have in fact been sufficiently adjusted for.

If they have then I'd like someone to reassure and convince me of the fact.

Otherwise I reserve the right to a healthy scientific scepticism.

onimolap Wed 09-Feb-11 17:33:20

I suppose we could email a link to this thread to the poc for the study and invite her to comment?

JugglingJo: I was just wondering why you were so sceptical. Is it because you think there cannot be such a link? Or is the concern more with how the press have seized on it, and ran stories which carried more weight than this research can necessarily bear?

CoteDAzur Wed 09-Feb-11 17:41:09

If you are going to be skeptical, it helps to first read the article properly. If you had, you would see that they have indeed taken into account other factors that have obvious effects on a child's IQ such as mother's education and socioeconomic status, and you would not be asking most of the questions in your OP.

Being entitled to your own opinion has nothing to with this.

jugglingjo Wed 09-Feb-11 17:46:22

Hi Onimo !

I did email the key researcher and let her know about our comments. But I'm not very confident at doing links and such like.

As for my scepticism .. It didn't start of as being specifically to do with this research. It's just when I heard about it on the radio I thought "Here we go again. More research on children's development which probably hasn't taken into account all the accompanying (or confounding) factors.

CoteDAzur quotes the Times as saying "Even adjusting for factors such as mother's education and social class ..."

"Even adjusting .." that makes me laugh !
It would be rather important with social research !

And were those the only two confounding factors they could think of ?

Here's a few more to consider ...

1) Mental health
2) Social support of family
3) Degree of environmental stimulation for child
4) Quality of parental communication
5) Quantity (and quality) of child's social and educational interaction outside the home.

Give me a research grant and a bit more time and I'll come up with a few dozen for you !

onimolap Wed 09-Feb-11 17:51:28

Thanks - unless she says the answer is private, will you share?

I come at this from a different POV: I see it as plausible, but only one small difference, which may be outweighed by the other potential differences. I also see the possibility of a "perfect storm" of generally negative indicators coming together, and that could make a huge difference to a child's life and prospects. Most children would get a mixture of plusses snaps minuses. And we'd all disbelieve someone who claimed to do everything perfectly....

Actually, that's put another thought into my head. I wonder how much of then evidence is retrospective personal recall of diet etc? Because IIRC, that's not considered hugely reliable.

jugglingjo Wed 09-Feb-11 17:56:21

I have not been able to access the entire article as yet ( If you mean the research paper)

And actually my OP made wider points about confounding (or accompanying) factors possibly not being sufficiently adjusted for in social research, and very rarely being mentioned in media reports of scientific research.

As my OP is very much my own opinion, and as you have said,

"I don't know why OP thinks scientists who carried out the research know less about the scientific aspect than herself" (to paraphrase)

In view of this I'd think it is reasonable to reiterate that everyone is entitled to their opinion !

CoteDAzur Wed 09-Feb-11 18:06:12

Do you understand the phrase "such as"? It means they have controlled for other factors as well, not only mother's education and socioeconomic status.

CoteDAzur Wed 09-Feb-11 18:10:06

It has nothing to do with "opinion". You didn't read the part of the article that clearly says that they did control for socioeconomic status, which is why you wrote "Have the factors accompanying this poor diet really been taken sufficiently into account. Things like socioeconomic class..." in your OP.

jugglingjo Wed 09-Feb-11 18:21:00

No, CoteDAzur,

I did write the OP in response to what I heard reported on the radio.

It was only after starting this thread that a thoughtful MN'er provided a link to various media articles, which I read and took into account in my subsequent posts.

CoteDAzur Wed 09-Feb-11 18:38:44

So what is it you are not happy with now, after having read the article?

They say they have controlled for various other factors affecting IQ, presumably isolating nutrition. Are you saying they can't be trusted to have adequately done their research?

onimolap Wed 09-Feb-11 18:53:49

Just nipping in to add this link to the official website of the entire project.

jugglingjo Wed 09-Feb-11 20:19:18

I'm certainly saying that in an area as complex as identifying the factors which influence children's development, both the methods and the conclusions of any research should be carefully considered.

By the original researchers and their reviewers, by the media, and by us the public - who may be influenced by such research in the choices we make.

One of the main dangers here is that an over emphasis on the importance of diet, could lead to less emphasis on other (quite possibly) more important influences such as the importance to young children of a stimulating environment and quality communication experiences with significant others.

biryani Wed 09-Feb-11 20:57:06

I read this too, and I'm not sure what the point is. The article seems to focus too sharply on IQ for my liking; I'm not too convinced of any direct link between IQ and success in later life anyway-someone enlighten me please on this? (I mean, incidentally, general success in life, not academic success in isolation).

Just another bit of guilt-enducing, mummy-bashing headline-grabbing hype?

onimolap Wed 09-Feb-11 21:36:45

I think that's more the fault of the headline writers.

This study is but one report form a long running observational study.

edam Wed 09-Feb-11 23:04:57

Cote, as I'm sure you know, it's not easy to adequately control for all possible confounding factors and I don't suppose the authors would claim they have managed to do this. This kind of research is also limited by relying on what people remember/say about what their child ate.

The NHS Behind the Headlines link Claire08 posted below is interesting - the study does have limitations in their opinion (as any study will always have):

"This study has strengths in that it included a large sample and took repeat measures of diet. It also adjusted the data for a large number of factors that may have affected the outcome. However, the researchers admitted that other factors that they had not adjusted for could have affected the outcome.

"There are some other points to consider when interpreting this study:

This data may not apply to the population as a whole.
* As with any study looking at diet, participants may not have accurately recalled what they ate. Also, one-off questionnaires may not capture accurately the typical pattern of diet over the last year.
* This study analysed the data by looking at clusters of food. Although this has the advantage of representing diet more realistically than examining each food separately, the way that particular food groups are decided on may be open to debate. For example, the snacking pattern included consumption of both fruit and cake.

"Overall, this study showed a modest association between diet and intelligence. Although the benefits of a balanced diet are well known for general health, further research is needed to assess the impact of diet on child brain development and intelligence."

CoteDAzur Thu 10-Feb-11 08:01:49

Of course, it is not easy, and all research has disclaimers like the ones you quoted. It is part of the scientific process.

I am not saying this study is gospel. What I am objecting to is not liking its findings and trying to find faults with it without properly reading the article, assuming scientists have not controlled for obvious factors. Now that she has realized that those have been controlled for, I'm wondering what her problem is. Except "I don't like the result, nutrition cant have any effect on IQ", I mean.

If we have to criticize this study, personally I would point out that a five point difference in IQ is not significant at all, but I'm not in a picky mood this morning for a change wink

jugglingjo Thu 10-Feb-11 08:13:17

Actually Cote my incentive for posting was nothing to do with not liking the "results" of this research.

It was genuinely prompted by a long standing view of mine that "confounding" (or accompanying) factors often do not (IMHO) seem to be sufficiently allowed for in interesting and complex social research.

For another example the poster earlier in this thread who was sceptical about the reasons for the link which was found between children learning a musical instrument and their subsequent general educational development.

In this example there are just so many "confounding" or accompanying factors.
Both learning an instrument and having a healthy diet could be more significant as "markers" of a good environment for children's development - Rather than being a cause of it smile

Maria2007loveshersleep Thu 10-Feb-11 08:34:31

CoteDAzur, the problem is in the assumption that all the factors you mentioned (and the ones jugglingjo very correctly added) can be 'adjusted for' in the first place.

I believe they cannot be adjusted for as they're far too complex. Also, these studies are (necessarily) based on self-reports & questionnaires which can be questioned as ways to get a good idea of what's going on. As scientific as this and similar studies may look, in fact I think they look at human behaviour too simplistically, trying to isolate factors about this or that, while things in practice work in a more complex way.

IMO the funds for this kind of research would be much much better placed in direct support for families & children who need it. I think the questions a researcher chooses to ask have ideological implications, and also very practical implications too. After all, it doesn't take a complex, 'scientific' study to tell us that good, healthy food is good for us (duh). We know that good, healthy food goes hand in hand with socio-economic factors, so no need for more research, all the need for more support. (I'm simplifying but I hope my main point comes across).

jugglingjo Thu 10-Feb-11 12:15:15

Thanks Maria.

An excellent point, I think.

It would seem that the situation is so complex that can it be possible to adjust for all "confounding factors" ( that is things which accompany the factor we are trying to look at, and might invalidate the research if not allowed for)

I also agree with your comment "as scientific as this and similar studies may look, in fact I think they look at human behaviour too simplistically"

Out of interest has anyone other examples of research where a suspicious causal link has been claimed (which you find doubtful) ?

CoteDAzur Thu 10-Feb-11 13:22:14

Of course all these factors can be adjusted for.

I thought the interesting finding of this study was not that "healthy food is good for us (duh)" but that good nutrition affects IQ until the age of 3 and then ceases to have any effect whatsoever.

I feel this is very relevant, especially considering the problems many of us have with toddlers in getting them to eat a wide variety of foods. When I was struggling to get vegetables into DD, hiding purees in pasta sauce and sticking them in pastries, people were telling me to relax, that she would start eating them in a few years. It was an uphill battle (that I lost, for the most part) but I am now glad that I made the effort.

Now DS (21 months) hoovers all types of food, but a friend's DS at the same age eats only eats a few fruits, bread and pasta with pesto sauce (olive oil & basilic). That is it. I will mention this study to his parents when I next see them. They are very health-conscious, but are relaxed about his eating habits, thinking he will start to eat in a year or two.

Maria2007loveshersleep Thu 10-Feb-11 14:30:53

Cote d'azur, what do you mean 'of course these factors can be adjusted for' (as if that's self evident). You do know there are huge debates about the use of these kinds of methodology to test complex psychosocial concepts such as IQ? Regardless of what position you may take in this debate, the answer is not self evident at all. Far from it.

CharliesDad Thu 10-Feb-11 17:12:17

For an alternative to baptism full of incomprehenible tosh, why not welcome your child into the human community with a naming ceremony conducted by an accredited humanist celebrant?

onimolap Thu 10-Feb-11 17:33:57

Maria2007: if you want to see if the questionnaires are politically slanted, they are available online (there's a link to the site in the earlier post): but I warn you, there are over 100 of them - and I think the physical examinations and psychological tests are additional to those.

Costs: the only mention of Government funding was in 2096, with. £9m grant. With apologies if I've missed anyone, The main finder seems to be The Wellcome Foundation - as they're a medical research charity, there is no possibility that the funds could have instead gone to any direct support for families.

It's interesting to see the range of subjects this study has contributed to, concerning children and families (it includes maternal health and has provides data sets to current breast cancer and osteoporosis research).

edam Thu 10-Feb-11 23:20:30

Maria raises a fair point about IQ which is itself a very problematic, limited and clearly culturally determined concept. A weak association with possibly three or five points at age 8 is not really a lot to get excited about.

What is very clear is that IQ is strongly linked to poverty. Bright children growing up in poverty do far less well than thick children growing up in affluent households. Now that IS a scandal. (Fair enough that affluent parents do their best to bring on less academic children but deeply sad that our society damages bright but less well off children.)

Maria2007loveshersleep Fri 11-Feb-11 07:43:50

The last thing I want to do is say that less funding goes to research (particularly at a time when universities & research centres are hit by the cuts really hard). I'm only trying to point out the question marks around the notion of IQ. I was also expressing my outrage at the expression 'garbage in, garbage out' which I heard on the radio from a guy commenting on the research findings. To be fair, it's very probable he wasn't one of the researchers, as the media have a tendency to exaggerate such findings in order to make attention grabbing headlines.

jugglingjo Fri 11-Feb-11 07:47:51

Good point too from several posters that how is IQ measured in young children so that a higher score can be assessed at age 8. ( And how accurate would an IQ score be for say a 2 or 3 year old ? )

rumple Sat 12-Feb-11 11:48:25

I agree that it is very difficult to totally eliminate other factors but on a different tangent I am not surprised that diet and brain function are related.

There is plenty of scientific research out there linking the state of our gut to changes in our mental health. Because it isn’t in the mainstream yet doesn’t mean the evidence is not there.

This is a really interesting video by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, MMedSci(neurology), MMedSci(nutrition) about how modern day life style and diet (a big factor being our increased consumption of processed foods) causes bad gut flora, bad bacteria over running our good bacteria, damaging our gut lining and how that then leads on to a host of other illnesses.

www.vimeo.com/10507542

I have just finished her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome and it’s really been an eye opener. I would say it’s a must read for anyone effected or caring for someone effected with Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., A.D.H.D., Dyslexia, Depression, Schizophrenia. Also anyone with allergies, including asthma and eczema.

The video is quite long but even if you just aim to watch the first 10 mins I think it’ll hook you in and that you’ll want to watch it all. It rang so many bells for me.

jugglingjo Sun 13-Feb-11 12:39:52

Thanks for the link, rumple.

That looks v. interesting.

I'm sure our modern diet can cause many health problems. often related to the bad bacteria in our gut overriding the good.
(I used to get repeated episodes of thrush until a friend recommended increasing my consumption of vegetables (towards 5 a day)

Since working on this the problem is gone smile

I am interested in ADD and dyslexia as I feel myself and DD affected by these (quite possibly) Daughter's challenges have been recognised by school, and taking part in a research project by Cambridge Uni.
My challenges evidently not considered severe enough in my generation to be picked up.
Tried to talk to my GP. He just said "You seem quite normal to me ! "
- Without really asking me much about why I felt this condition might be relevant to me hmm

Here again though I'm slightly dubious about a link with diet - as tend to feel it is something we're born with. Just our brains working in a slightly non NT way !

PS I love the use of NT (neurologically typical) or non-NT to describe children's challenges especially on the MN special needs forum.

nightcat Sun 13-Feb-11 13:33:44

rumple, I have read the book and implemented most of the advice and can happily confirm that it has changed my ds in the ways that I hadn't dared to dream about grin, amazing lady and amazing book, I only wish this advice was available at the drs office

LDNmummy Sun 13-Feb-11 19:50:20

I think the concept of an IQ is flawed anyway. How can you measure intelligence? So weird.

As for the junk food theory, to me it is just a common sense issue. The brain is a physical part of the body and needs nutrition in order to develop properly. Processed food is nowhere near as nutritious as home made meals from scratch, provided all of the ingredients are natural (by this I don't mean "organic" like the overpriced mushrooms down waitrose grin, I mean from soil, not pre-packaged sauces and stuff. It is indeed a nature and nurture deal, but nature intended more natural ways of sustinance for the human body as a minimum requirement. Even if you are the best parent in the world in terms of engaging with your children, if you do not have the basic foundations to build on, the job or nurturing will be a lot harder and the child will be at an initial disadvantage.

LDNmummy Sun 13-Feb-11 22:44:12

excuse my terrible grammar blush

jugglingjo Mon 14-Feb-11 07:38:13

I just think in this country though, our bodies and brains tend to mainly get the nutrition they need.

It's the other things a child needs for their development - as you say engaged parents - that is both harder to provide and more often in short supply.

brettgirl2 Mon 14-Feb-11 19:55:15

There is dispute about the existence of IQ...

Assuming that IQ is a sensible measure to IQ test the parents would be interesting as it is likely to at least to some extent be genetic. Do more intelligent parents feed their children more healthily? (Intelligence not being the same as socio-economic group)

In terms of causality - I was reading the bfing study and the control seemed to be that the socio-economic factors had been proved not relevant by also studying children in Belarus. Why would more intelligent women in Belarus not be more likely to bf? There is a worrying assumption as others have said that a 'link' is the same thing as a 'cause'.

That said common sense tells me that the better the standard of nutrition the better the development of the child is going to be.

jugglingjo Tue 15-Feb-11 07:29:36

Hi Brettgirl,

Yes, exactly. About the "link" / "cause" thing.

Last sentence ( common sense says better the nutrition better the development will be )

- Yes, evidently it would be a positive rather than negative factor.
But it could be very small compared to other more important factors - such as environmental stimulation and emotional and social engagement with others, including high quality communicative experiences.

CoteDAzur Wed 16-Feb-11 07:54:50

"link and cause thing" is called "Correlation does not mean causation" and there is not a single scientist on earth who is not aware it. By all means, though, continue to talk as if this principle has just been discovered on this thread hmm

Also, the is no "dispute about the existence of IQ". That would be as pointless as disputing the existence of Fahrenheit. Both are measuring systems, nothing more.

And testing parents would be irrelevant because the aim is to study if nutrition has anything to do with the intelligence of a person.

jugglingjo Wed 16-Feb-11 14:53:07

I've just been trying to explain my thoughts in simple language CoteDAzur.

Though I know that scientists are aware that a link doesn't equate with a cause, I feel they could sometimes show more rigour in applying this important scientific philosophy. And more integrity in communicating the context of their findings to the media.

The media in turn could credit their readers and listeners with a slightly higher level of scientific sophistication wink

peppapighastakenovermylife Wed 16-Feb-11 17:17:40

'I feel they could sometimes show more rigour in applying this important scientific philosophy.'

Erm - they do, they control for these confounders statistically as much as possible. The only other way to look at it would be to do a randomised controlled trial. Even if it got ethical approval would you sign your child up to a trial where they were chosen (out of your control) to eat a high junk diet versus healthy diet .

The research is ALSPAC - one of the best longitduinal studies and experienced team in UK (and international) research. I am sure they consider this possibility in the discussion.

One of the other points of correlational research is to point out there is a link so if possible further research can be done. The problem is that such studies are more and more jumped upon by the media and reported out of context (and read by people who do not understand science).

'And more integrity in communicating the context of their findings to the media.'

Scientists rarely do. They write for scientific communities. Sometimes their work gets pulled out of these journals and publicised without them having a say. Sometimes they get rung up for comment whilst they are trying to eat their cornflakes and persuade the children to get dressed for school grin

jugglingjo Wed 16-Feb-11 19:05:34

Well, perhaps those involved in research should give more thought and put more of their resources into the area of communicating their findings to the public.

Especially where they are in crucial fields such as factors affecting children's development.

Or global warming and it's likely effects, and ways to reduce climate change caused by mankind's activities.
- to name just two areas that come to mind.

Perhaps the media is not to be relied on to accurately report the findings of science - as it's primary mission is to sell papers or airtime by whatever means is most effective.

peppapighastakenovermylife Wed 16-Feb-11 19:35:25

Ha ha ha at 'resources' - so underfunded. Research needs to be better funded for this to happen...which isn't going to get better any time soon unfortunately.

jugglingjo Wed 16-Feb-11 20:41:00

All the same a reply to my email from one of the researchers involved, or a post on this thread (which I pointed out to them) wouldn't go amiss wink

How much funding would that take ? hmm

peppapighastakenovermylife Wed 16-Feb-11 21:39:29

My point is that often there is no funding - or a researcher doesnt expect anyone to be that interested in it. It would be nice though if when the media picked things up they got chance to come out with a proper statement (but reckon the media might not go with that as too boring).

It would be nice...but if their work has been all over the papers and news the poor woman is probably hiding from everyone / still working through the 28 million mails (and probably hate mail) she got!

To get the message out there - they would have to have someone willing to listen to the actual researcher (and that doesnt make good journalism)

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