For the first time researchers have been able to find evidence linking eating a healthy breakfast to higher academic performance. The study included 5,000 participants who were between the ages of 9-11 years old and from more than 100 different elementary schools. The child participants had the quality of their breakfasts tracked for 6-18 months while their scores on certain academic assessments were also recorded.
The study is the first of its kind to include so many participants and monitor them over such a long period of time. Results revealed that students who ate breakfast, and who ate the highest quality breakfast, were also the highest academic achievers. In fact, for the students eating breakfast the chances of scoring above average on standardized academic assessments was twice as high in comparison to students who didn’t eat breakfast.
Another interesting find that the study uncovered was related to the quality of the breakfasts eaten. For students who ate unhealthy foods, such as high sugar junk foods or potato chips, results showed no positive impact on educational achievement.
The study was structured around students who were asked to keep track of all of the food and drink they consumed over a period of 24 hours, which included two breakfasts. Additional dietary behavior was also recorded, including how much junk food was eaten throughout the day.
Nutritional experts have stated for years that eating a healthy breakfast is important for academic performance, but until this study was conducted no solid evidence existed to back up this belief. The implications that this evidence hold for education and public health policy is significant. What role the public school system plays in providing healthy breakfasts, which includes fruits and vegetables, may come under closer scrutiny. Schools, already overwhelmed with administrative issues related to the quality of student education, may see these findings as another burden. Dedicating time and resources to increasing the nutritional value of the foods eaten by students will require financing that underfunded districts desperately need for other aspects of education.
However, overlooking the importance nutrition plays in delivering quality education can be a serious oversight. Now that science has made it clear that what a child eats in the morning has the potential of impacting their ability to develop intellectually places a new responsibility upon parents and educators everywhere. The combination of nutritional health and education should be seen as complementary priorities rather than competing issues.
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