Nutrition has long been considered one of the most important environmental factors affecting human intelligence. Although carbohydrates are the most widely studied nutrient for their possible effects on cognition, limited data are available linking usual refined carbohydrate intake and intelligence. The present study was conducted to examine the relationship between long-term refined carbohydrate intake and non-verbal intelligence among schoolchildren.
In this cross-sectional study, 245 students aged 6–7 years were selected from 129 elementary schools in two western regions of Tehran. Anthropometric measurements were carried out. Non-verbal intelligence and refined carbohydrate consumption were determined using Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices test and a modified sixty-seven-item FFQ, respectively. Data about potential confounding variables were collected. Linear regression analysis was applied to examine the relationship between non-verbal intelligence scores and refined carbohydrate consumption.
Individuals in top tertile of refined carbohydrate intake had lower mean non-verbal intelligence scores in the crude model (P < 0·038). This association remained significant after controlling for age, gender, birth date, birth order and breast-feeding pattern (P = 0·045). However, further adjustments for mother's age, mother's education, father's education, parental occupation and BMI made the association statistically non-significant. We found a significant inverse association between refined carbohydrate consumption and non-verbal intelligence scores in regression models (β = −11·359, P < 0·001). This relationship remained significant in multivariate analysis after controlling for potential confounders (β = −8·495, P = 0·038).
The study provides evidence indicating an inverse relationship between refined carbohydrate consumption and non-verbal intelligence among Tehrani children aged 6–7 years. Prospective studies are needed to confirm our findings.