Fast Food Affects How Kids Perform in School, New Study Suggests

SHAFAQNA – Obesity is a problem in children, with eating fast food contributing a lot in its advancement. Now researchers are saying that fast food diet can also affect school performance.

Published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, the study involved around 11,740 students part of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, a national study representing students who were in kindergarten from 1998 to 1999. Subjects were first tested for science, mathematics and reading/literacy proficiency in fifth grade and a second time in eighth grade. A food consumption questionnaire was also completed during fifth grade.

According to results, subjects who reported they have been eating fast food frequently since fifth grade logged in lower scores in science, math and reading in their eighth grade, with those consuming the most records up to 20 percent lower scores than those who didn’t regularly eat fast food.

Based on the food consumption questionnaire, less than 29 percent of the subjects did not eat fast food during the week prior to the start of the study. However, 10 percent had fast food between four and six times in a week while another 10 percent consumed fast food on a daily basis. A little more than half of the subjects ate fast food around one to three times in a week.

“There’s a lot of evidence that fast-food consumption is linked to childhood obesity, but the problems don’t end there. Relying too much on fast food could hurt how well children do in the classroom,” said Kelly Purtell, a human sciences assistant professor from The Ohio State University and the study’s lead author.

It’s possible for low scores to be influenced by other factors but as the researchers took into account this possibility, controlling as many factors as possible and the results remained the same; they are inclined to think that fast food consumption is to be blamed. Further research will have to be done, however, to prove causation.

While this study was not able to determine the link between eating fast food and lower scores in science, math and reading/literacy, other studies have pointed to the fact that fast food does not contain certain nutrients, like iron which is necessary for brain development. Additionally, diets loaded with sugar and fat–typical of a fast-food meal–have been known to disrupt immediate processes associated with learning and memory.

The study received funding support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Aside from Purtell, Elizabeth Gershoff from the University of Texas at Austin also worked on the study.

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