Review published on effects of diet on children's learning
Wednesday 5 July 2006
The Agency has today published a systematic review into the effect of diet and nutrition on children's learning, education and school performance.
The review, undertaken by the University of Teesside, was designed to assess the strength of evidence from studies already published on children aged 4 to 18 years. The review also examined the quality and reliability of the studies.
After identification of the relevant research, those selected for systematic in-depth review included studies looking into the effect on children of:
- breakfast (15 studies)
- short-term sugar intake on children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (6 studies)
- fish oil supplements on children with symptoms of learning and behavioural disorders (5 studies)
- vitamin and mineral supplementation (2 studies)
The review highlighted that, due to the small number of studies available and the great variation in their designs, there is insufficient quality evidence to reach firm conclusions on the effect of nutrition and dietary changes on learning, education or performance for all schoolchildren.
The University of Teesside review concluded that there is also insufficient evidence to reach a firm conclusion on the effect of omega 3 fatty acids on the education or learning of the general population. However, there is some evidence of benefits for some children with learning difficulties.
Eating breakfast and a healthy balanced diet is also known to be beneficial for a child's general development and to maintain good health.
A healthy diet has been shown to reduce the risk of developing diet-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
The Agency's dietary advice for children and young people therefore remains unchanged.
The Agency would like to see more long-term research carried out into the effects of diet and nutrition on school attainment.
But future studies would need to be large enough to provide meaningful and reliable results and should take into account other factors that may affect a child's development and performance.
The Agency will be working with other Government departments and the School Food Trust, to develop an understanding of the possible links between diet, performance and behaviour, at both a school and an individual pupil level.
The School Food Trust is the Government-funded body established to promote children's education and health by improving the quality of food supplied and eaten in schools.