Breakfast: is it really the most important meal of the day? For elementary school students, breakfast does play a role in academic success. A new study from Cardiff University’s Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPher) finds that there is a significant association between eating breakfast and doing well in school. The study is the largest to evaluate the longitudinal effects of breakfast on school performance. It offers the strongest evidence to-date of the importance of eating a healthy breakfast.
To find out how breakfast affected academic achievement, the researchers surveyed 5,000 students, aged 9 to 11, from more than 100 elementary schools. They gathered data about what children ate and drank throughout a period of just over 24 hours, which included two breakfasts. The researchers compared this information with Teacher Assessments conducted 6 to 18 months later.
Children who ate breakfast achieved better academic outcomes. Breakfast-eating children were twice as likely to receive an above average Teacher Assessment compared to children who did not eat breakfast.
One in five children reported eating unhealthy food for breakfast. The data revealed that eating an unhealthy breakfast of chips or candy did not have a positive impact on educational outcomes. Eating servings of fruits and vegetables throughout the day was also correlated to improved educational performance.
Study authors state that the findings should inform educational policies regarding student health. “For schools, dedicating time and resources towards improving child health can be seen as an unwelcome diversion from their core business of educating pupils,” stated lead study author Hannah Littlecott of Cardiff University’s DECHIPher. “But this resistance to delivery of health improvement interventions overlooks the clear synergy between health and education.”
This research is published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
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