The Role of Adolescent Nutrition and Physical Activity in the Prediction of Verbal Intelligence during Early Adulthood: A Genetically Informed Analysis of Twin Pairs




Jackson, Dylan B.
Beaver, Kevin M.

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A large body of research has revealed that nutrition and physical activity influence brain functioning at various stages of the life course. Nevertheless, very few studies have explored whether diet and exercise influence verbal intelligence as youth transition from adolescence into young adulthood. Even fewer studies have explored the link between these health behaviors and verbal intelligence while accounting for genetic and environmental factors that are shared between siblings. Employing data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the current study uses a sample of same-sex twin pairs to test whether youth who engage in poorer fitness and nutritional practices are significantly more likely to exhibit reduced verbal intelligence during young adulthood. The results suggests that, independent of the effects of genetic and shared environmental factors, a number of nutritional and exercise factors during adolescence influence verbal intelligence during adulthood. Limitations are noted and suggestions for future research are outlined.



nutrition, diet, physical activity, exercise, verbal intelligence, heritability, twins, DF (Defries-Fulker) analysis


International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 12 (1): 385-401 (2015)


Criminology and Criminal Justice