Children with healthier eating habits have better cognitive development

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Reasoning is an important talent for learning, academic performance, and problem-solving in everyday life. A recent study from the University of Eastern Finland discovered that a better overall diet, less red meat consumption, more time spent reading, and participation in organised sports improved children's reasoning skills over the first two years of school.

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“Children with healthier eating habits showed greater cognitive development than other children. Specifically, better overall diet quality, lower red meat consumption, and higher low-fat dairy product intake were linked to better reasoning skills,” said doctoral researcher Sehrish Naveed of the University of Eastern Finland.

Children who spent more time reading and participating in structured sports performed better in reasoning tests than their peers. Excessive computer uses and unsupervised leisure-time physical activity, on the other hand, were linked to weaker thinking skills. Screen usage, active school transportation, playtime physical activity, and intensity of physical activity were not related to thinking skills.

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Over half of the children participated in a two-year family-based and individualised diet and physical activity intervention. However, the intervention did not impact reasoning skills, with the children in the intervention and control groups exhibiting similar cognitive development.

“In the lives of growing children, diet and physical activity intervention is just one factor influencing lifestyle and reasoning skills. Based on our study, investing in a healthy diet and encouraging children to read are beneficial for the development of reasoning skills among children. Additionally, engaging in organised sports appears to support reasoning skills”, Eero Haapala points out.

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