The role of breakfast and a mid-morning snack on the ability of chidren to concentrate at school

Department of Psychology, University of Wales Swansea, Swansea SA2 8PP, Wales, UK.
Physiology & Behavior (Impact Factor: 2.98). 03/2007; 90(2-3):382-5. DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.09.029
Source: PubMed


The effect on the ability of children to attend to their school work, of the size of breakfast and whether a mid-morning snack had been consumed, was considered. Nine year old children were studied for four days. They reported what they had eaten for breakfast and days when they either had or had not eaten a mid-morning snack were contrasted. For an hour in the late morning, while performing individual work, activity sampling was used to establish the time spent on task. Those who had eaten a small breakfast, on average 61 kcal, spent significantly less time attending to their work than those who had eaten larger meals. The adverse effect of a small breakfast was reversed by the consumption of a mid-morning snack.

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Available from: David Benton, Mar 30, 2015
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    • "More recent evidence compares breakfast meals that differ in Glycaemic Load (GL), Glycaemic Index (GI) or both. This evidence generally suggests that a lower postprandial glycaemic response is beneficial to children's cognitive performance (Benton and Jarvis, 2007; Ingwersen et al., 2007; Micha et al., 2011; Cooper et al., 2012) however the evidence is equivocal (Brindal et al., 2012). Moreover, it remains unclear whether this effect is specifically due to GI or GL, or both, or to other effects unrelated to glycaemic response. "
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    ABSTRACT: Breakfast consumption is associated with positive outcomes for diet quality, micronutrient intake, weight status and lifestyle factors. Breakfast has been suggested to positively affect learning in children in terms of behavior, cognitive, and school performance. However, these assertions are largely based on evidence which demonstrates acute effects of breakfast on cognitive performance. Less research which examines the effects of breakfast on the ecologically valid outcomes of academic performance or in-class behavior is available. The literature was searched for articles published between 1950-2013 indexed in Ovid MEDLINE, Pubmed, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library, EMBASE databases, and PsychINFO. Thirty-six articles examining the effects of breakfast on in-class behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents were included. The effects of breakfast in different populations were considered, including undernourished or well-nourished children and adolescents from differing socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds. The habitual and acute effects of breakfast and the effects of school breakfast programs (SBPs) were considered. The evidence indicated a mainly positive effect of breakfast on on-task behavior in the classroom. There was suggestive evidence that habitual breakfast (frequency and quality) and SBPs have a positive effect on children's academic performance with clearest effects on mathematic and arithmetic grades in undernourished children. Increased frequency of habitual breakfast was consistently positively associated with academic performance. Some evidence suggested that quality of habitual breakfast, in terms of providing a greater variety of food groups and adequate energy, was positively related to school performance. However, these associations can be attributed, in part, to confounders such as SES and to methodological weaknesses such as the subjective nature of the observations of behavior in class.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 08/2013; 7:425. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00425 · 3.63 Impact Factor
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    • "A study by Taki et al. (2010), however, considered brain structure in terms of concurrent diet in a group of healthy children; although not “infant” diet, this study is included in view of the paucity of studies as an illustration of how neuroimaging can be incorporated into studies of nutrition. Given findings of the positive effects of eating breakfast on cognitive function in children (Benton and Jarvis, 2007), the authors looked at the relationships among breakfast staple type (in terms of glycaemic index—GI), GMV and WMV in the brain and IQ in a group of 290 healthy 5–18 year olds. Participants were divided into three groups depending on their habitual breakfast diet: (1) the “rice” group ate boiled white rice, (2) the “bread” group ate white bread, (3) the “both” group ate one or the other on different days. "
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    ABSTRACT: Nutrition is crucial to the initial development of the central nervous system (CNS), and then to its maintenance, because both depend on dietary intake to supply the elements required to develop and fuel the system. Diet in early life is often seen in the context of "programming" where a stimulus occurring during a vulnerable period can have long-lasting or even lifetime effects on some aspect of the organism's structure or function. Nutrition was first shown to be a programming stimulus for growth, and then for cognitive behavior, in animal studies that were able to employ methods that allowed the demonstration of neural effects of early nutrition. Such research raised the question of whether nutrition could also programme cognition/brain structure in humans. Initial studies of cognitive effects were observational, usually conducted in developing countries where the presence of confounding factors made it difficult to interpret the role of nutrition in the cognitive deficits that were seen. Attributing causality to nutrition required randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and these, often in developed countries, started to appear around 30 years ago. Most demonstrated convincingly that early nutrition could affect subsequent cognition. Until the advent of neuroimaging techniques that allowed in vivo examination of the brain, however, we could determine very little about the neural effects of early diet in humans. The combination of well-designed trials with neuroimaging tools means that we are now able to pose and answer questions that would have seemed impossible only recently. This review discusses various neuroimaging methods that are suitable for use in nutrition studies, while pointing out some of the limitations that they may have. The existing literature is small, but examples of studies that have used these methods are presented. Finally, some considerations that have arisen from previous studies, as well as suggestions for future research, are discussed.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 08/2013; 7:445. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00445 · 3.63 Impact Factor
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    • "Limitations to current knowledge preclude defi nitive conclusions regarding the effects of breakfast on learning. Numerous individual studies have reported fi ndings suggesting that breakfast consumption favorably affects a variety of learning outcomes (Benton & Jarvis, 2007; Gajre et al., 2008; Kleinman et al., 2002; Mahoney et al., 2005; Meyers et al., 1989; Murphy et al, 1998; Wesnes et al., 2003; Widenhorn-Muller et al., 2008). Some recent reviewers concluded that, while not defi nitive, results are very promising, particularly for youth with nutritional defi ciencies (Rampersaud et al., 2005). "
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    ABSTRACT: This article provides an introduction to the October 2011 special issue of the Journal of School Health on "Healthier Students Are Better Learners." Literature was reviewed and synthesized to identify health problems affecting school-aged youth that are highly prevalent, disproportionately affect urban minority youth, directly and indirectly causally affect academic achievement, and can be feasibly and effectively addressed through school health programs and services. Based on these criteria, 7 educationally relevant health disparities were selected as strategic priorities to help close the achievement gap: (1) vision, (2) asthma, (3) teen pregnancy, (4) aggression and violence, (5) physical activity, (6) breakfast, and (7) inattention and hyperactivity. Research clearly shows that these health problems influence students' motivation and ability to learn. Disparities among urban minority youth are outlined, along with the causal pathways through which each adversely affects academic achievement, including sensory perceptions, cognition, school connectedness, absenteeism, and dropping out. Evidence-based approaches that schools can implement to address these problems are presented. These health problems and the causal pathways they influence have interactive and a synergistic effect, which is why they must be addressed collectively using a coordinated approach. No matter how well teachers are prepared to teach, no matter what accountability measures are put in place, no matter what governing structures are established for schools, educational progress will be profoundly limited if students are not motivated and able to learn. Particular health problems play a major role in limiting the motivation and ability to learn of urban minority youth. This is why reducing these disparities through a coordinated approach warrants validation as a cohesive school improvement initiative to close the achievement gap. Local, state, and national policies for implementing this recommendation are suggested.
    Journal of School Health 10/2011; 81(10):593-8. DOI:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00632.x · 1.43 Impact Factor
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