A new study by researchers in Finland has found that a healthy diet can help improve children’s reading skills in the first three years of school.
Carried out by researchers from the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyväskylä, the study followed 161 schoolchildren aged 6 to 8 years old from the first grade to third grade of school.
The team analysed the children’s diets using food diaries, and assessed academic skills using standardized tests.
The more the children’s diets followed the Baltic Sea Diet and Finnish nutrition recommendations, which advise a diet high in vegetables, fruit and berries, fish, whole grains, and unsaturated fats, and low in red meat, sugary products, and saturated fat, the healthier the diet was considered to be.
The results, published online in the European Journal of Nutrition, showed that children who followed a healthy diet in line with the Baltic Sea Diet and Finnish nutrition recommendations, performed better in tests to measure reading skills than children who ate an unhealthier diet.
The results were independent of many other factors including socio-economic status, physical activity, body adiposity (body fat), and physical fitness, leading the team to suggest that parents, schools and governments could help to improve reading skills just by improving the availability of healthy foods.
The study’s findings also provide further evidence to suggest the importance of a healthy diet on academic performance.
A 2015 study published in the Public Health Nutrition journal found that eating breakfast could also have a positive effect on children’s school performance, with the quality of the breakfast also playing an important role.
After looking at 5,000 9-11 year olds from over 100 schools, researchers from Cardiff University found that children who ate breakfast were up to twice as likely to attain an above average performance in tests than those who skipped breakfast, but children who ate an unhealthy breakfast such as sweets and chips showed no improvement at all.
Research by Oxford University, UK, published in 2013 in the journal PLOS ONE also found that levels of omega-3 fatty acids “significantly predicted” school children’s ability to concentrate and learn, with higher levels of omega-3, found in oily fish such as salmon, associated with better reading and memory and fewer behavioural problems.
Source: Times Live