Does Breakfast Affect School Performance?
We’ve all heard this saying growing up.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
However, some health experts and nutritionists debate how true this really is.
One thing for sure, though, is that our nutritional needs do change throughout life. For example, kids will much different energy needs than that of older people.
New findings from Cardiff University add evidence to the validity of this statement. The research – published in the journal Public Health Nutrition – looks at how breakfast affects children’s school performance.
Many of you would probably say, “Of course breakfast is the most important meal of the day!”
It may seem obvious, but it falls under the realm of conventional wisdom. But just because something seems intuitively obvious, doesn’t always make it true.
Time and time again, science has shown that conventional wisdom can be wrong. We humans are irrational, emotional, and don’t always act in our own best interest.
However, it is nice when science can back up what we’ve always believed to be true.
Hannah Littlecot was a lead author on the study. She looked at over 5,000 children that were 9 to 11 years old along with other members of the research team.
Here’s what she says about the research:
“While breakfast consumption has been consistently associated with general health outcomes and acute measures of concentration and cognitive function, evidence regarding links to concrete educational outcomes has until now been unclear.”
So other studies have hinted at the importance of a good breakfast. It has been linked to better health and focus. But, this study looks directly at the relationship between breakfast and school performance.
Getting the Grade
The research is the largest study to date looking at measurements of school performance. They found that children who ate breakfast achieved better marks in school.
Here’s another important piece of information they found. It was students who ate a better quality breakfast that would score higher.
Kids who ate an unhealthy breakfast – like sweets or high calorie foods with little nutritional value – had no improvement in performance.
If that wasn’t enough, researchers also noticed that other healthy dietary patterns showed a positive boost in grades. Such as number of fruits and vegetables consumed.
Together these findings add another significant link between a healthy diet and brain performance.
The Role of Schools
There is always talk of what schools should provide in the way of food. Their primary job is to give students the best education possible. Providing breakfast or focusing on dietary concerns may seem unnecessary or distracting.
But it’s hard to ignore the links between diet and educational outcomes. Since younger students spend a good portion of their day on school grounds, providing them the ability to do their best academically would seem to be in line with their main focus.
Hannah comments on this importance:
“This study therefore offers the strongest evidence yet of links between aspects of what pupils eat and how well they do at school, which has significant implications for education and public health policy…”
There’s a number of great takeaways for policy makers and parents alike.
Breakfast, and more importantly a good quality breakfast, can boost school performance.
Looking deeper, though, you find that improving health and healthy behaviors enable children to achieve more. And shouldn’t this should be the aim of schools and parents everywhere?