It's official - vegetarians really are smarter. But it is not because of what they eat. Bright children are more likely to reject meat and opt to become vegetarians when they grow up, a study has shown. Clever veggies are born not made.
The finding helps explain how a team of vegetarians won the BBC Test the Nation competition in September, when they beat off competition from six other teams including butchers, public school pupils and footballers' wives to achieve the highest overall IQ score.
The top scoring individual in the contest, Marie Bidmead, 68, a mother of five from Churcham, Gloucester, was also a vegetarian. "I think it shows we veggies are good thinkers. We think about what we eat for a start," she said.
Researchers from the University of Southampton who conducted the study agree. They suggest that vegetarians are more thoughtful about what they eat. But they say it is unclear whether bright children choose to become vegetarians for the health benefits or for other reasons, such as a concern for animals, or as a lifestyle choice.
The scientists began investigating the link between IQ and vegetarianism because people with higher intelligence have a lower risk of heart disease, which has long puzzled doctors.
A vegetarian diet is associated with a lower cholesterol level, lower blood pressure and less obesity - all risk factors for heart disease.
The researchers wondered if this could explain the health advantage of having a high IQ. They cite Benjamin Franklin, the 18th- century statesman and scientist, who said that a vegetarian diet results in a "greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension". He may not have realised that this was because of whom was eating rather than what was eaten. However, early last century doctors were less enamoured of the practice. Robert Hutchison told the British Medical Association in 1930: "Vegetarianism is harmless enough though it is apt to fill a man with wind and self-righteousness. …