Added sugar and dietary fiber consumption are associated with creativity in preadolescent children

Kelsey M. Hassevoort, Anna S. Lin, Naiman A. Khan, Charles H Hillman, Neal J. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Creativity requires the ability to combine existing mental representations in new ways and depends, in part, on the hippocampus. Hippocampal function is, in turn, affected by a number of health factors, including aerobic fitness, excess adiposity, and diet. Specifically, in rodent studies, diets high in saturated fatty acids and sugar–hallmarks of a western diet– have been shown to negatively impact hippocampal function and thereby impair performance on cognitive tasks that require the hippocampus. Yet relatively few studies have examined the relationship between diet and hippocampal-dependent cognition in children. Methods: The current study therefore sought to explore the relationship of several diet quality markers including dietary lipids (saturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids), simple carbohydrates (added sugars), and dietary fiber with creativity in preadolescent children. Participants (N = 57; mean age = 9.1 years) completed the Verbal Form of the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT), a standardized test of creativity known to require the hippocampus. Additionally, participants completed a 3-day food intake record with the assistance of a parent, underwent dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) to assess central adiposity, and VO2max testing to assess aerobic fitness. Results: Added sugar intake was negatively associated, and dietary fiber was positively associated with overall TTCT performance. These relationships were sustained even after controlling for key covariates. Discussion: These findings are among the first to report an association between added sugar consumption and hippocampal-dependent cognition during childhood and, given the key role of the hippocampus in learning and memory, as well as creative thinking, have potential educational and public health implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)791-802
Number of pages12
JournalNutritional Neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2 2020


  • Creativity
  • Western diet
  • added sugar
  • childhood
  • development
  • dietary fiber
  • hippocampus
  • nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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