A new study has found that children score lower in cognitive tests if they are on a high-sugar diet or their mothers consumed too much sweet during pregnancy.
A new Harvard University study found children whose mothers ate large amounts of processed foods and drank sugary sodas during pregnancy scored lower on tests relating to learning, memory, problem-solving and verbal skills.
Similarly, children who had similar dietary habits, usually passed down from their parents, were found to be less intelligent.
On the other hand, mums and children on high-fruit diet scored significantly better.
On the flip side, when mothers and children ate diets that were high in fruit, which contains so-called healthy sugars, scores were significantly improved.
This study is one of the first to draw a link between the substance and early brain development.
According to the American Heart Association, one should not consume more than 10 teaspoons of sugar each day.
However, average daily consumption usually rakes up 350 calories.
Health officials have been warning Americans to cut their sugar intake for the last three decades, but research shows that consumption habits haven’t changed much.
High-sugar diets have been linked to a host of health issues including obesity, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Notably, the study, published this week in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, suggests that the harmful effects of a high-sugar diet begin before a child is even born.
The findings revealed that moms who consumed more than 50 grams of sugar daily had children with lower cognitive scores when it came to memory and problem-solving ability than moms who ate a more natural diet.
Drinking sugar-sweetened sodas in particular during pregnancy was linked to poorer scores for both verbal knowledge and nonverbal skills.
Also, children who drank sugary sodas were found to have poorer verbal intelligence at age seven, whereas children whose ate more fruits were found to have better cognitive scores in several areas, especially when it came to vocabulary.
Fruit-consumption was also associated with improved visual motor abilities in early childhood and verbal intelligence in mid-childhood.
Interestingly, fruit juice was not found to have the same benefits as whole fruit, which may suggest that the benefit was from phytochemicals, the researchers said.