A new study on the consumption of junk food and academic performance, involving 5,500 10 and 11-year-olds, has found that a higher-than-average consumption of fast food can have a significant impact on students’ academic ability.
Dr Kerri Tobin, of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee led the study – the first to show a conclusive connection between high-fat and sugary foods and low academic results.
Overall, the study showed that higher-than-average consumption of fast food resulted in lower-than-average test scores. Those who ate above average quantities of junk food scored significantly lower than their classmates in a range of academic tests – 12.79 points less for literacy and 12.35 points for numeracy.
Of the students in research group, 54 per cent had eaten fast food between one and three times during the previous week; 10 per cent had snacked on it between four and six times; and 2 per cent – or more than 110 pupils – said they ate it four or more times daily.
Dr Tobin suggested that: ‘It is possible that the types of food served at fast-food restaurants cause cognitive difficulties that result in lower test scores. Alternatively, it is possible that the propensity to eat fast food is correlated with unobserved characteristics, like parental involvement in homework, which would also affect test scores.’
‘Continued investment in school nutrition plans, and curricula designed to make pupils and parents aware of the academic consequences of their food choices, would be one positive step that schools could take, said Dr Tobin.