Are smart kids more likely to grow up to be vegetarians? That's what a British research group's findings show. According to a new study published in the British Medical Journal, "Higher scores for IQ in childhood are associated with an increased likelihood of being a vegetarian as an adult."
Researchers followed up with 8,170 men and women at the age of 30 whose IQs had been documented in a study at the age of 10. Of those, 4.5% (or 366) said they are now vegetarians as adults (including those who are technically "semi-vegetarian" and eat chicken or fish but no red meat). What's significant is that the vegetarians in the study were more likely to have scored higher on intelligence tests as kids than the meat-eaters. The vegetarians also tended to be women of higher social class who are better educated or have higher career qualifications.
The fact that intelligent kids decided to forego meat (or at least beef) as grown-ups might help explain the link between childhood smarts and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease as adults, the study suggests.
It's important to point out, though, that the researchers had no detailed background information on the self-proclaimed vegetarians (for example, how long they'd been vegetarians or if their parents were vegetarians).
What This Means to You
Whether or not being a vegetarian has any connection to higher intelligence, a well-planned, balanced vegetarian diet can certainly be a very healthy way to eat. A diet rich in fruits and veggies is naturally high in fiber and low in fat, which lowers cholesterol and makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Plus, offering kids a diet stocked with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains teaches them nutritious eating habits that can last for a lifetime.
But, as with any diet, a vegetarian regimen should include a variety of foods from all of the food groups. And it's key to make sure children and teens consume the calories and nutrients they need. If you're interested in pursuing a vegetarian diet in your family, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about how to make the most nutritious choices to keep your kids healthy as they grow.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: January 2007
Source: Catharine R. Gale, Ian J. Deary, Ingrid Schoon, G. David Batty, Dec. 15, 2006, online edition, British Medical Journal.