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Proper Eating Habits Vs. Academic Performance

by Buffy Naillon

Students who want to give their academic performance an additional edge may want to consider thinking about what they eat. While parents and educators alike have often cited anecdotal evidence about food and academic performance, research indicates that these beliefs count as more than just old wives' tales. Good eating habits not only promote physical well-being but academic health as well.

Studies and Nutrition

Dr. Paul J. Veugelers of the University of Alberta in Edmonton and his professional colleagues studied the correlation between good nutrition and academic success. They found that students who ate the right amounts of fiber, vegetables, proteins and fruits did better academically. According to Reuters, a university study about the correlation between test grades and nutrition suggests that food choices make students smarter in testing situations. The study considered factors such as parental income and the educational institution as well as the food students ate. Students who didn't eat enough healthy food did the worst on tests compared to their peers.

Skipping Breakfast

Life for high school and college kids is hectic, and tired students often choose sleep over eating breakfast. According to an article in "The Tufts Daily," this hurts them in the long run. They've already gone all night without taking in any food, and those who skip breakfast often don't eat until early to late afternoon. This practice deprives the brain of the glucose it needs to function properly.

Financial Considerations

Students who skip meals on purpose still usually have access to good nutrition. For them, it becomes a matter of improving their eating habits. However, for other students, it's not so simple. The food-as-an-indicator-of-academic-success issue is even more pronounced for students from low-income backgrounds, according to the National Institutes of Health. These students, often younger, deal with excessive hunger, absenteeism and mental health issues, many of which stem from lack of good nutrition. Their academic performance suffered when they consistently didn't eat the first meal of the day. The students who had access to school food programs showed a marked improvement in academic performance once a regular breakfast was added to their day. These school programs also helped to offset another challenge that faces these students, which is malnutrition, a condition that has far-reaching consequences beyond one academic school year.

Social Stigma

While the amount of nutrition to which a student has access plays a key role in academic success, hidden factors related to good health may also hamper a student's education. "The Bay Citizen" cited a study in the "Journal of Child Development," which found that obesity can play just as critical a role in a child's lack of academic success. Aside from contributing to health problems that may make achieving academic success more challenging, the social stigma of being overweight affected students' performances. The conclusion researchers came to suggested that because obese students often don't have as many friends, they don't develop the social skills they need to interact with peers. This in turn leads them to be shy about academic work involving standing up in front of the class or leading discussion groups.

About the Author

Buffy Naillon has worked in the media industry since 1999, contributing to Germany's "Der Spiegel" magazine and various websites. She received a bachelor's degree in German from Boise State University. Naillon also attended New York University and participated in the foreign exchange program at Germany's Saarland University. She is completing her master's degree in educational technology at Boise State.

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