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Could junk food be harming your child's intelligence?

According to a study by Britain's Bristol University, children who eat more chips, fries, cookies and cake before the age of three have slightly lower IQs five years later, the Daily Mail reports.

The study, the first to directly link toddlers' diets with their brainpower later in life, showed those who were fed a high-fat and high-sugar diet scored as much as five IQ points lower than those who ate a health-conscious diet high in salads, fruits and vegetables.

The study tracked the eating habits of about 4,000 children at the ages three, four, seven and eight, at which time, their IQs were measured. Some 20 per cent of children with the worst diet at age three were found to score, on average, five IQ points lower than the group with the best diet, even after accounting for other factors like social class and maternal education, the newspaper reports.

The researchers suggest that a diet of highly processed foods offers too few of the nutrients needed for young brains to thrive, and that the impact of a poor diet can last a lifetime.

"Brain development is much faster in early life, it's when it does most of its growing. It seems that what happens afterwards is less important," Dr. Pauline Emmett, one of the lead researchers, told the BBC.