Protein boosts early babies’ brains

Protein boosts premature babies’ IQs

Premature babies raised on a diet richer in proteins have higher IQs as teenagers, a study at Great Ormond Street has revealed.

Researchers found that the protein-rich diet also increased the size of the caudate nucleus – responsible for the brain’s memory and learning system and linked to higher intelligence – later in life.

The study, published in Pediatric Research, tested verbal IQ levels and carried out brain scans amongst two groups of adolescents born prematurely in the Eighties. One group was given a high-protein diet in the four weeks after birth; the other a standard diet.

Elizabeth Isaacs, who led the research, said: ‘The data presented here are among the first to show that the structure of the human brain can be influenced by early nutrition.

‘Scientists have speculated that the size of the caudate nucleus might be influenced by nutrition in infancy, when the brain is undergoing its chief growth spurt. We now see that cognitive effects of early diet that we previously reported in childhood persist into adolescence.’

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