After several recent studies poked holes in long-held beliefs about the benefits of breakfast, we had to reset what we know to be true about early morning meals.
The old mantra about skipping breakfast leading to weight gain didn't hold up under scientific scrutiny, but newer research found that starting the day with protein helps curb evening snacking habits and that not eating breakfast is detrimental to long-term metabolic health.
Fortunately, one long-held positive belief about breakfast has just been confirmed. A new study from Cardiff University finds that eating morning meals correlates with higher academic outcomes. Researchers looked at 5,000 nine- to 11-year-old students from more than 100 primary schools to analyze the correlation between breakfast and school success. The kids who ate breakfast -- and more quality breakfasts -- scored higher in Key Stage 2 Teacher Assessments, a set of standardized tests in the U.K.
Students who ate breakfast had twice the odds of achieving an above-average educational performance compared to breakfast-skippers.
The content of the breakfasts mattered, too: Eating sweets and chips in the morning, something a reported one in five children do, had no effect on educational success, unlike a healthy breakfast. "A healthy breakfast was classified as fruit, dairy, bread and/or cereal items," Hannah Littlecott, the study's lead author, told The Huffington Post.
Other eating behaviors, like the consumption of fruits and vegetables throughout the rest of the day, also linked up with school performance. Healthier eating patterns were equated with healthier test scores. Researchers say this is strong evidence of a significant correlation between nutritional behaviors and academic attainment.
"This study ... 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," Littlecott said in a statement. She emphasized the importance of this kind of research, particularly during a time when school budgets and resources like free student meals are in danger of being scrapped.
"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," Littlecott said. "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."
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