Pupils who eat a healthy breakfast every day are more likely to perform better in school, research shows.
Those who start the day with cereal, bread, dairy or fruit were twice as likely to do well in tests, a Cardiff University study found. Having snacks such as crisps or sweets in the morning was no better than eating nothing at all, they said.
Researchers who asked 5,000 pupils aged nine to 11 from more than 100 primary schools found that youngsters who carried on eating fruit and vegetables at other times of the day also did better.
While academics have long linked morning meals to brain power, the Cardiff team said their large study indicated the ‘strongest evidence yet’.
Dr Graham Moore, who worked on the study, said: ‘We analyzed links between whether young people were eating breakfast and the quality of that breakfast.
‘There’s a significant association between eating breakfast and doing well, but there is also a link between a healthy breakfast and doing well.
‘The odds of achieving an above average teacher assessment score were up to twice as high for those pupils who ate breakfast.
‘The odds of scoring above average was between 50 per cent and 100 per cent higher if any breakfast was eaten.’
Dr Moore said it did not matter whether pupils ate breakfast at home or during a breakfast club at school.
‘The main thing is to make sure they have a breakfast,’ he said.
During the study, pupils were asked to list all the food and drink they consumed over a period of just over 24 hours, including two breakfasts.
Hannah Littlecott, lead author of the study, said: ‘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.
‘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.
‘For schools, dedicating time and resource towards improving child health can be seen as an unwelcome diversion from their core business of educating pupils, in part due to pressures that place the focus on solely driving up educational attainment.
‘But this resistance to delivery of health improvement interventions overlooks the clear synergy between health and education. Clearly, embedding health improvements into the core business of the school might also deliver educational improvements as well.’
Chris Bonell, professor of sociology and social policy at the University College London Institute of Education, said: ‘This further emphasizes the need for schools to focus on the health and education of their pupils as complementary, rather than as competing priorities.
‘Many schools throughout the UK now offer their pupils a breakfast. Ensuring that those young people most in need benefit from these schemes may represent an important mechanism for boosting the educational performance of young people throughout the UK.’
Source: Daily Mail