Best brain food for kids

• Broadcast Date: April 28, 2008
The evidence is overwhelming: kids are what they eat. Especially when it comes to brain food.
Four-year-old Harper was far too busy disrupting her classmates and fidgeting, to learn much at pre-school.
Her teachers recommended she be assessed for ADHD, but mum Nicole had other ideas.
After removing artificial preservatives, flavours and colours from Harper’s diet, the little girl became more co-operative and better able to concentrate.
“She’s always been a smart child, but it’s definitely helping her at pre-school with her learning,” Nicole said.
At least 60 additives which are currently in Australian food products can cause problems for some children.
A UK study has suggested certain colours and preservative can make children disruptive and unable to concentrate. There are moves underway to have them banned across Europe.
Australian food authorities are yet to acknowlege the findings, let alone take similar action. But it’s not just about what we remove from kids food to help them learn, it’s about what we need to include as well.
Professor Creswell Eastman from the Australian Centre for Iodine Deficiency Disorders believes our food authorities have been too slow to act on the certain knowledge that iodine levels are decreasing in our food – and affecting our kids’ brain development.
“If we continue the way we are now, then what we are going to see is that the children born in this country will have lower IQs than they should have had,” Professor Creswell said.
“If children are brought up in iodine deficient environments, then they lose a lot of IQ. If it’s moderate to severe deficiency, they may lose 15 IQ points.”
“Now, no-one can afford to lose a few IQ points let alone 15, so to lose 15 points on average puts you in the handicapped class.”
Until 10 years ago, you could find iodine in milk because the dairy industry used it for cleaning milking sheds and equipment – an accidental contamination. As the dairy industry changed its practices, there is now less iodine in our food.
Iodised salt is one way to up your intake. Vitamin companies started including it in pregnancy and breastfeeding supplements, but the issue has had far too little attention for Professor Eastman’s liking.
“I’m seen as a critic of the food authorities in Australia, because in my view they have been slow to act,” Professor Eastman said.
“We’re not being a clever country at the moment.”
It seems food authorities want to avoid over-regulation of the industry, but without external pressure, food producers are unlikely to change the recipe.
Pediatric Nutritionist at Westmead children’s Hospital, Susie Burrell, says while health professionals are doing more to educate patients and put pressure on government, there are simple steps parents can take to help kids get the best fuel for their brains.
“At least three serves of oily fish each week and if they don’t really like the tuna or the sardines or the salmon, at least try and give them a child formulated fish oil supplement,” Susie said.
“Getting rid of foods that have got bright orange and yellow pink and blue colourings is a really good starting point to getting rid of all those colours.”
“And soft drink as a rule needs to go – that’s one of the key things we’re strict on – soft drink is not appropriate for children.”
Further information

On removing food additives:
On iodine deficiency:


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