Fish Oil, Interactive Reading Programs Could Boost Intelligence

When many perceive IQ to be an absolute and unchangeable measure of intelligence, new studies are proving otherwise – early educational and nutritional intervenion has the potential to raise a child’s IQ by several points.  The recent study focuses specifically on the role of fish oil supplementation, which is believed to help a child’s neural development, and early educational interventions such as reading programs, which expose children to complex cognitive tasks during the most vital period of brain development.  4 to 7 point IQ differences were noted among the groups given supplementation and early educational intervention.  Read on for the full story. 

fish oil and reading

Parents seeking ways to boost the IQs of their young children can do so by making sure they choose a high-quality preschool, encouraging them to read, and supplementing their diets with fish oil, researchers from the New York University (NYU) Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development claim in a recently published study.

Writing in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, doctoral student John Protzko and professors Joshua Aronson and Clancy Blair, all from the NYU Steinhardt School, used a technique known as meta-analysis and compiled the findings from previous research to determine how effective different intervention types are when it comes to raising the intelligence of participating kids.

Together, the three researchers created what they dub the “Database of Raising Intelligence,” which includes a series of randomized controlled trials designed for youngsters from birth through kindergarten, the Association for Psychological Science (APS), which publishes the journal in which the study appears, explained in a January 25 statement.

The goal of the database, Protzko said, is to discover what things are actually effective when it comes to enhancing a growing child’s intellect, and which methods have little impact on IQ. “For too long, findings have been disconnected and scattered throughout a wide variety of journals. The broad consensus about what works is founded on only two or three very high-profile studies,” he explained.

Every study included in the database features subjects who had not been clinically diagnosed with any intellectual disabilities, each of whom were selected at random to participate in an intervention program for an extended period of time, the researchers said. The trials also used widely accepted measures of intelligence, they added.

“The larger goal here is to understand the nature of intelligence, and if and how it can be nurtured at every stage of development,” Aronson said. “This is just a first step in a long process of understanding. It is by no means the last word. In fact, one of the main conclusions is how little high quality research exists in the field and how much more needs to be done.”

Among the researcher’s findings was pregnant women and newborns who supplement their diets with foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids had IQ scores that were more than 3.5 points higher than those who did not regularly consume the polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Protzko’s team believes the substance may play a key role in helping to develop nerve cells that a person’s body is unable to produce without them. However, they have not yet been able to establish whether or not other supplements, such as B-complex vitamins, iron, or zinc, had similar effects.

The APS statement also says the NYU study discovered that “enrolling an economically disadvantaged child into an early education intervention was found to raise his or her IQ by more than four points; interventions that specifically included a center-based education component raised a child’s IQ by more than seven points.

“The researchers hypothesize that early education interventions may help to raise children’s IQ by increasing their exposure to complex environments that are cognitively stimulating and demanding,” it added. “It’s not clear, however, whether these results apply more broadly to kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Protzko and his colleagues also report early childhood intervention programs that emphasize interactive reading programs, which encourage parents to read with their children, were found to boost those scores by more than six points, although the effects did not seem to apply to kids over the age of four. That would suggest interactive reading programs help spur on linguistic development in young children, which in turn increases their intelligence.

“Sending a child to preschool was found to raise his or her IQ by more than four points, and preschools that include a language development component were found to boost IQ by more than seven points,” the statement reported. “The link between preschool and intelligence could be a function of increased exposure to language or the result of the overall cognitive complexity of the preschool environment.

“Our current findings strengthen earlier conclusions that complex environments build intelligence, but do cast doubt on others, including evidence that earlier interventions are always most effective,” said Protzko. “Overall, identifying the link between essential fatty acids and intelligence gives rise to tantalizing new questions for future research and we look forward to exploring this finding.”

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