Healthy diet boosts children's reading skills

September 13, 2016
A healthy diet may improve learning. Credit: Eero Haapala

A heathy diet is linked to better reading skills in the first three school years, shows a recent study from Finland. Published in the European Journal of Nutrition, the study constitutes part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland and the First Steps Study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä.

The study involved 161 aged 6-8 years old, and followed up on them from the first grade to the third grade in school. The quality of their diet was analysed using food diaries, and their academic skills with the help of standardised tests. The closer the diet followed the Baltic Sea Diet and Finnish nutrition recommendations - i.e. high in vegetables, fruit and berries, fish, whole grain, and unsaturated fats and low in red meat, sugary products, and saturated fat - the healthier it was considered.

The study showed that children whose diet was rich in vegetables, fruit, berries, whole grain, fish and unsaturated fats, and low in sugary products, did better in tests measuring reading skills than their peers with a poorer diet quality.

The study also found that the positive associations of diet quality with reading skills in Grades 2 and 3 were independent of reading skills in Grade 1. These results indicate that children with healthier diets improved more in their reading skills from Grade 1 to Grades 2-3 than children with poorer diet quality.

"Another significant observation is that the associations of diet quality with were also independent of many confounding factors, such as socio-economic status, , body adiposity, and physical fitness," says Researcher Eero Haapala, PhD, from the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyväskylä.

Parents, schools, governments and companies can improve the availability of healthy foods

A healthy diet seems to be an important factor in supporting learning and academic performance in children. By making healthy choices every meal, it is possible to promote a and enhance . Parents and schools have an important role in making healthy foods available to children. Furthermore, governments and companies play a key role in promoting the availability and production of healthy foods.

Explore further: Poor motor performance linked to poor academic skills in the first school years

More information: Eero A. Haapala et al, Diet quality and academic achievement: a prospective study among primary school children, European Journal of Nutrition (2016). DOI: 10.1007/s00394-016-1270-5

Related Stories

Poor motor performance linked to poor academic skills in the first school years

October 28, 2013
Children with poor motor performance at the school entry were found to have poorer reading and arithmetic skills than their better performing peers during the first three years of school. However, no relationship was found ...

High levels of physical activity linked to better academic performance in boys

September 11, 2014
A recent Finnish study shows that higher levels of physical activity are related to better academic achievement during the first three school years particularly in boys.

Family-based counselling increases physical activity and improves diet quality in children

March 11, 2016
A recent Finnish study showed that individualised and family-based lifestyle counselling helps 6-8-year-old children increase their physical activity levels and improve their diet quality during a two-year follow-up. The ...

For women, healthy diets may help with mobility when aging

June 22, 2016
In a large study conducted by at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), researchers found an association between women who maintain a healthy diet and a reduction in the risk of developing impaired physical function as they ...

Healthy midlife diet may prevent dementia later

March 10, 2014
Healthy dietary choices in midlife may prevent dementia in later years, according a doctoral thesis published at the University of Eastern Finland. The results showed that those who ate the healthiest diet at the average ...

Recommended for you

Hormone therapy in the menopause transition did not increase stroke risk

November 24, 2017
Postmenopausal hormone therapy is not associated with increased risk of stroke, provided that it is started early, according to a report from Karolinska Institutet published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

When traveling on public transport, you may want to cover your ears

November 22, 2017
The noise levels commuters are exposed to while using public transport or while biking, could induce hearing loss if experienced repeatedly and over long periods of time, according to a study published in the open access ...

Different types of alcohol elicit different emotional responses

November 22, 2017
Different types of alcohol elicit different emotional responses, but spirits are most frequently associated with feelings of aggression, suggests research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Air pollution linked to poorer quality sperm

November 22, 2017
Air pollution, particularly levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), is associated with poorer quality sperm, suggests research published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Sunrise and sunset guide daily activities of city-dwellers

November 21, 2017
Despite artificial lightning and social conventions, the dynamics of daylight still influence the daily activities of people living in modern, urban environments, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

Older men need more protein to maintain muscles

November 21, 2017
The amount of protein recommended by international guidelines is not sufficient to maintain muscle size and strength in older men, according to a new study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.