Wheat, Rice, and Children’s Brains by Dr. Emily Deans is good. An excerpt:
There is another post-worthy probiotics paper on the hopper, but before that I wanted to cover an article called Breakfast Staple Types Affect Brain Gray Matter Volume and Cognitive Function in Healthy Children (freely available on PLoS one). I like some parts of this paper, though it is observational in nature, so keep that in mind.
As we all know, our big old brains develop not only prenatally, but also throughout childhood and adolescence. In children, several studies have been done showing nourishing breakfasts help cognitive performance compared to skipping breakfast – especially the “high quality” breakfasts, with one study showing that a breakfast of low glycemic index foods having an immediate positive effect on attention throughout the morning (1).
In other introductory information, many studies in children have been able to correlate the amount of brain gray matter (vs. white matter) and IQ, especially gray matter in the prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortex and the cingulate gyrus. Therefore, since breakfast types affect cognitive function, and brain structure can correlate with IQ, does breakfast type correlate with brain structure and IQ? I don’t know. Let’s find out.
So all told, this study is only an observation, and causal factors cannot be determined with this dataset. And I think the whole high GI/low GI chase is probably a red herring. These Japanese kids were all likely relatively low-fat and high carb compared to say, American kids of the same age, and I do tend to think that healthy, low-toxicity carbs and fruit are fine for kids, who are not as likely to have leptin resistance as their adult counterparts. As for the fat issue – I think a common sense way to think about this issue is to look at neonates. They are the extreme version of the child, after all, and everyone can agree about the best food for them (human breast milk). Neonates need a diet high in sugar (though lactose does not contain fructose) and 50% fat with lots of saturated fat. I don’t see how fat can be vital for the baby brain but somehow becomes toxic for the growing child brain. I wish someone could explain that to me in a way that makes any physiologic sense, because it seems to be taken for truth by so many medical professionals and scientists. If you can explain exactly when and how fat becomes toxic (somewhere presumably between the ages of 3 and 5, which is when ancestral humans were weaned?) drop me a comment. “Lipotoxicity” doesn’t count without more information as to the specific mechanism – neither do studies poisoning animals and/or humans with large amounts of corn oil or trans fats.
There is a nice comment to the article:
Do what I did: Find candy bars with superior nutritional quality to the cereal and serve those instead. Suddenly the wife sees a different point of view.
In my case it was snickers versus pop-tarts. Turns out the snickers were slightly lower in carbs, lower in total calories, higher in protein and had no hydrogenated oil!
Watching my kids sitting at the table for breakfast wolfing down a snickers bar and knowing that was actually superior to a pop-tart made me laugh. And it finally convinced my wife to toss the pop-tarts and we started cooking eggs in the morning. 🙂