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Effect of Breakfast Timing on the Cognitive Functions of Elementary School Students

Nachum Vaisman, MD; Hillary Voet, PhD; Alla Akivis, MD; Eli Vakil, PhD
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150(10):1089-1092. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1996.02170350091016.
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Objective:  To study the effect of breakfast timing on selected cognitive functions of elementary school students.

Design:  A 2-week randomized control intervention trial.

Setting:  Five elementary schools.

Subjects:  The subjects comprised 569 children, 51% of them boys, aged 11 to 13 years; the children were in grades 5 through 6 (17 classes). The subjects lived in different areas and had different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Intervention:  Each subject was tested twice, by 2 versions of the Rey Auditory-Verbal Learning Test, 2 alternative forms of the logical memory subtest of the revised Wechsler Memory Scale, and 2 versions of the Benton Visual Retention Test. On the first test, before any nutritional intervention, the subjects were asked to complete a questionnaire about their food intake on the day of testing. Two thirds of the subjects received 200 mL of 3%-fat milk and 30 g of sugared cornflakes for the next 14 days, and all the subjects were reexamined on the 15th day.

Main Outcome Measure:  Scoring on the different tests was compared with baseline scores.

Results:  After 15 days, children who ate breakfast at school scored notably higher on most of the test modules than did children who ate breakfast at home and children who did not eat breakfast.

Conclusions:  Our results indicate that routinely eating breakfast 2 hours prior to being tested does not improve cognitive functions in 11- to 13-year-old elementary school students, but food supplementation 30 minutes prior to taking a test notably improves scoring. We suggest further studies on the relationship between meal content, feeding time, and scholastic performance.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150:1089-1092.

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