OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this work was to examine the relation of scores on tests of mental ability in childhood with food consumption and physical activity in adulthood.

METHODS. Based on a cohort of >17000 individuals born in Great Britain in 1970, 8282 had complete data for mental ability scores at 10 years of age and reported their food intake and physical activity patterns at 30 years of age.

RESULTS. Children with higher mental ability scores reported significantly more frequent consumption of fruit, vegetables (cooked and raw), wholemeal bread, poultry, fish, and foods fried in vegetable oil in adulthood. They were also more likely to have a lower intake of chips (French fries), nonwholemeal bread, and cakes and biscuits. There was some attenuation in these associations after adjustment for markers of socioeconomic position across the life course, which included educational attainment, with statistical significance lost in some analyses. Higher mental ability was positively associated with exercise habit, in particular, intense activity (defined by being out of breath/sweaty). The associations between mental ability and these behaviors were similar in both men and women, and they were somewhat stronger for verbal than nonverbal ability.

CONCLUSIONS. It is plausible that the skills captured by IQ tests, such as the ability to comprehend and reason, may be important in the successful management of a person's health behaviors.

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