Does Good Nutrition Provide Social Behavioral Benefits As Well As Physical?
The common thought is that good nutrition is the foundation of peak physical performance and immune health. Yet, very little is studied regarding the social well being of a person and the link to nutrition.
Eating healthily as a child may actually impact their social developments and growth, thus they may be more friendly and show more signs of social interaction.
Historical research has shown that there is a link between malnutrition and impaired early years cognitive performance. Yet, the substandard nutrition and social interaction has never been touched upon. Thus, the University of Pennsylvania took on the study to see if there is a direct link.
It seems too much focus is spent on the physical benefits of quality nutrition and not enough on the social consequences and potential that nutrition can play.
A healthy diet has already been linked with improved cognitive function and mental health, a nutritious and balanced diet has also been linked to heart health including the feelings of optimism. This had led to some psychiatrists believing that nutrition is as important to mental health as much as it is for our organs.
The study conducted by the university analysed nearly 1800 3 year olds from Mauritius off the coast of Eastern Africa. The study took a view on 4 aspects of physical and social development which were related to nutrition.
The children were assessed for any signs of physical nutritional deficits such as thin, discoloured hair or cracked lips and then assessed for any social inefficiencies such as a lack of friendliness, a lower ability of verbalization, lower exploratory behaviour and less social play. The assessment led the researchers to believe that there is a link between nutrition and social behavior.
This initial study has hinted at the role between nutrition and social function, however, to ensure that the preliminary findings are valid further study needs to be carried out. A further trial with a manipulation of the nutrition in order to see a difference in behavior and cognitive function needs to be completed for a viable conclusion to be made.
Another question to ask is whether social ability is the reasoning behind nutrition or whether nutrition is the cause of social interation. A chicken and egg scenario. This is due to a study which saw single people ate less fruit and vegetables compared to the partnered counter parts.
The initial study does hail the importance of good nutrition from an early age for optimal physical, cognitive and social health.