Premature babies which are fed high protein foods have higher IQ levels when they reach adolescence, a study suggests.
Researchers at Great Ormond Street Hospital and University College London tested verbal IQ levels among two groups of young people who were born prematurely.
One group had a high-protein diet in the four weeks after they were born, while the other subjects ate a standard diet.
But when they reached their teenage years, those given the diet rich in nutrients had higher IQs and bigger parts of their brains linked to intelligence levels.
Dr Elizabeth Isaacs, who led the research published in the journal Paediatric Research, said: "Although studies are beginning to appear that link aspects of current diet to brain function the data presented here are among the first to show that the structure of the human brain can be influenced by early nutrition.
"Scientists have speculated that the size of the caudate nucleus might be influenced by nutrition in infancy when the brain is undergoing its chief growth spurt.
"We now see that cognitive effects of early diet that we previously reported in childhood persist into adolescence, and that they have a structural basis.
"The fact that early nutrition may programme the development of specific brain structures is of fundamental biological importance."