It’s sometimes hard to get kids and even adults to believe that it is not possible to reach for their optimal health potential in body and mind without eating a lot of naturally nutritious food. Our body and mind are like highly sensitive engines that only run really well on quality fuel. The Ohio State University tested this assumption and reported that fast food consumption is associated with lower test score gains in 8th graders.
The researchers found the more fast food kids ate in 5th grade, the slower their academic growth was by the time they were in 8th grade. The researchers observed the more frequently kids reported eating fast food in fifth grade, the worse their growth in reading, math, and science test scores was by the time they were in eighth grade. In fact in the students who ate the most fast food there were up to about 20 percent lower test score gains than those students who didn’t eat any fast food.
Kelly Purtell, an assistant professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University who was the lead author of the study, said the problems of fast food consumption don’t end with an association to obesity. Consuming too much fast food could also hurt how well kids do in school. The results were seen even after the researchers considered a wide variety of other factors which may have explained why those with high fast food consumption might have lower test scores, such as how much they exercised, how much time they spent watching television, what other kinds of food they ate, their family’s socioeconomic status and the characteristics of their neighborhood and school.
This study has been published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics. The kids in the study who ate fast food four to six times per week or daily showed significantly lower academic gains in comparison to kids who didn’t eat any fast food the week prior to the survey. This study can’t say exactly why fast food consumption is associated to lower grades. However, other studies have shown that fast food is poor in certain nutrients, particularly iron, that are important for cognitive development. Furthermore, diets which are high in fat and sugar such as seen in many fast food meals have been found to hurt immediate memory and learning processes.
In view of the finding that high levels of fast food consumption appear to be predictive of slower growth in academic skills in kids it would be wise to limit the amount of fast foods kids are given. Eating more naturally healthy foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, boiled or baked fish, whole grains, and nuts can help kids fight obesity while also helping to nurture healthy brains.