Getting off to the best start

A new review in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience analyses existing research on the effects of breakfast on primary and secondary pupils’ academic performance and classroom behaviour. The authors searched articles published between 1950 and 2013, and found 36 suitable for inclusion.

The review found that the positive effects of breakfast on academic performance were clearer than on behaviour. Increased frequency of habitual breakfast was consistently positively associated with academic performance. Evidence from school breakfast programmes also suggested a positive effect on school performance, particularly with maths grades and arithmetic scores and in undernourished children and/or children from deprived or low socio-economic backgrounds. However, the authors warn that these results may be confounded by socio-economic status (SES), which was not always taken into account.

Children from higher SES backgrounds are more likely to regularly eat breakfast.

The evidence also suggests beneficial effects of breakfast for on-task behaviour in the classroom, mainly in younger children (under 14). This effect was apparent in children who were well-nourished, undernourished and/or from deprived or low socio-economic backgrounds. However, the authors are more cautious about these findings, noting that there are difficulties surrounding accurately measuring behaviour due to its “inherently subjective” nature.

Source: The Effects of Breakfast on Behavior and Academic Performance in Children and Adolescents, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7.