Better Diet, Better Student

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Children who eat healthful diets perform better in school, according to a study from the University of Eastern Finland. Diets and reading ability were assessed in a group of 161 Finnish students between the ages of six- and eight-years old who were in first to third grade. Results showed that healthier diets were associated with better reading skills by third grade, regardless of how well the students could read in first grade. This benefit was independent of socioeconomic status, physical activity, body adiposity, and physical fitness. The healthy diets that produced better reading performance were low in sugary foods and red meat and consisted mainly of vegetables, berries and other fruits, seafood, whole grains, and foods with unsaturated fat.

A second study from the same university found that overweight children who consumed the most omega-3 fats EPA and DHA from seafood scored higher on tests for cognition compared to children who ate little or no fatty fish.

In Perspective: The Oxford study (DOLAB) also found that these omega-3s, in this case from supplements, improved reading scores by up to 50% in children. A healthful diet combined with these omega-3s looks like a promising way to improve a child’s academic performance.

Haapala E, Eloranta A, Venalainen T, et al: Diet quality and academic achievement. European Journal of Nutrition 2016; September 9th.

Haapala E, Viitasalo A, Venalainen T, et al: Plasma polyunsaturated fatty acids are directly associated with cognition in overweight children but not normal weight children. Acta Paediatric 2016;September 19th.

Richardson A Burton J, Sewell R, et al: Docosahexaenoic acid for reading, cognition and behavior in children aged 7-9 years: A randomized, controlled trial (the DOLAB study). PLoS One 2012;7:e43909.

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