Nutrition and Student Performance at School

Authors

  • Howard Taras


  • Howard Taras, MD, Professor, School of Medicine, (htaras@ucsd.edu), Division of Community Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego, Gilman Drive #0927, La Jolla, CA 92093-0927. This article is 1 of 6 articles that are part of a project of the National Coordinating Committee on School Health and Safety (NCCSHS). This NCCSHS project was funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, and US Department of Agriculture. Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily shared by these federal agencies or other institutions that comprise NCCSHS membership.

Abstract

Abstract: This article reviews research from published studies on the association between nutrition among school-aged children and their performance in school and on tests of cognitive functioning. Each reviewed article is accompanied by a brief description of its research methodology and outcomes. Articles are separated into 4 categories: food insufficiency, iron deficiency and supplementation, deficiency and supplementation of micronutrients, and the importance of breakfast. Research shows that children with iron deficiencies sufficient to cause anemia are at a disadvantage academically. Their cognitive performance seems to improve with iron therapy. A similar association and improvement with therapy is not found with either zinc or iodine deficiency, according to the reviewed articles. There is no evidence that population-wide vitamin and mineral supplementation will lead to improved academic performance. Food insufficiency is a serious problem affecting children's ability to learn, but its relevance to US populations needs to be better understood. Research indicates that school breakfast programs seem to improve attendance rates and decrease tardiness. Among severely undernourished populations, school breakfast programs seem to improve academic performance and cognitive functioning. (J Sch Health. 2005;75(6):199-213)

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