The amount of fast food a child consumes could be linked to how well he or she does in school, a new study from Ohio State University suggests.
A team of researchers led by Kelly Purtell examined data from a study of 11,740 students across the country. The students were tested in math, reading, and science first in fifth grade and then again in eighth grade. In fifth grade, they also completed a food consumption survey.
The researchers did everything they could to control for any factors that could account for lower test scores, including how much they exercised, how much television they watched, what other food they ate, their family's socioeconomic status, and the traits of their neighborhood and school, according to the press release.
They found that, compared to their non-fast-food eating peers, the fifth graders who reported eating fast food four or more times a week showed less improvement in test scores by 20% in the eighth grade in all three subject areas. And those who reported eating fast food just one to three times a week lagged behind in math.
While this study doesn't explain why fast-food is linked to slower academic growth, past research has shown that fast food lacks the nutrients that aid cognitive development, like iron. Plus, diets high in fat and sugar — like fast food meals — have been shown to impede memory and learning.
"We're not saying that parents should never feed their children fast-food," said Purtell, "but these results suggest fast-food consumption should be limited as much as possible."
It's an easy rule to remember: Eat smarter to be smarter. Simple as that.
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