Britain's biggest ever survey of over 10,000 children reveals foods that can make children smarter.
The Food for the Brain children’s survey, sponsored by Organix, compares food intake with behaviour, academic performance and health. You can do the on-line child questionnaire for free.
The Food For The Brain Foundation has published the results of the largest ever children’s nutrition and diet survey undertaken on over 10,000 British school children aged between 6 – 16 years old, comparing aspects of their diet with their behaviour, academic performance, SAT scores and overall health. The results, which found a significant association between diet, behaviour and SAT scores, show the shocking state of children’s diet and mental health in Britain with more than 1 in 3 suffering from attention or concentration problems and mood swings or tantrums, with almost half having constant sugar cravings.
The survey was conducted between September 2006 and July 2007 with parents completing a free on-line questionnaire on their children. Participants were recruited partly through media coverage in national publications, an email sent to all UK public sector schools, and partly self-selected by visiting the website www.foodforthebrain.org.
Average intake of dark green vegetables (high in folate) is 1 serving a week
- Average intake of seeds / nuts high in essential fats is half a serving a week
- Average sugar servings in or added to food and drinks is 3.5 a day
- Children who eat diets high in fried food, takeaways or foods cooked in hot fat are three times more likely to be badly behaved
- Children who eat vegetables, oily fish, nuts and seeds do best at school
- Children with better diets have 11% higher SAT scores
BEST AND WORST FOODS
The survey found that the best foods for behaviour are fruit and vegetables with high consumers of both twice as likely to be well behaved. The worst foods are fried and / or takeaway foods, processed food, ready meals and sugar. A massive 44% of children who eat this type of junk food most days suffer from bad behaviour, compared with only 16% of children who never eat fried or takeaway food having poor behaviour.
The best foods for parental rating of good academic performance are raw nuts and seeds with high consumers twice as likely to have good academic performance. The best foods for good SAT scores are dark green leafy vegetables, oily fish and water. The worst foods are processed and ready meals. High dairy consumers also had slightly lower SAT scores. Almost half (45%) of children frequently or always crave sweet foods and of those 44% frequently or always have poor attention or lose concentration, 39% have poor memory and 37% have frequent mood swings or tantrums.
The table below shows the difference in overall health, behaviour and academic performance SAT scores between high and low consumers of different food groups
Head of the study and director of Food for the Brain, Patrick Holford, Visiting Professor in the School of Social Sciences and Law at the University of Teesside comments: “The brain is 60% fat. Children who eat good fats, from raw nuts, seeds and oily fish, double their chances of high academic performance. Children who eat damaged fats, in fried food and takeaways, are twice as badly behaved, as well as performing badly at school. In a sense these fats make your brain thicker, less responsive, and they appear to make children thicker too.
Many children in our survey are like jetfighters – they refuel on the move going from one sugary food or drink to another. The association between high sugar intake and bad behaviour is very strong.”
Holford concludes: “Failures in government initiatives to improve academic performance may be because we’re not putting money where our mouth is. This survey provides strong evidence that an optimal diet, with more vegetables, oily fish, nuts, seeds, fruit and wholefoods makes a big difference. During our school projects with Chineham Park, a poorly performing Primary School in Hampshire and Cricket Green, a Special Educational Needs School in Surrey, we saw for ourselves the massive improvement in behaviour and academic performance following a change to this kind of diet, together with supplements. Achieving optimum nutrition needs to be on the government’s agenda and the schools’ core curriculum.”
Lizzie Vann, founder of organic food company Organix, who sponsored the survey, added: "Organix has long campaigned to give children the best start in life by encouraging everyone from parents to politicians to provide the best possible food for the next generation. The good news in this survey is that we can actively improve our children's health, behavior and achievements by making small changes to the food they eat. The benefits of fresh, seasonal foods, organically grown and simply cooked are clear messages that many adults have taken on board. This report makes it clear that if our children are not fed well, every aspect of their lives from health to how they are at school suffers."
Jamil, age 7, is a case in point. He used to eat high sugar foods and drinks, fried food and takeaways and was easily distracted, hyperactive and had difficulty concentrating. Now, all that has changed. His mother Claire, took part in the Food for the Brain Survey and attended ‘food for the brain’ cookery workshops at his school in Basingstoke. “His behaviour is definitely better. He’s calmer and less defiant and doing better at school.” says his mother Claire. “He’s eating better and open to trying new foods. Changing his diet has made a real difference.”
TEST YOUR CHILD
Parents can check their own child’s diet and receive free ‘food for the brain’ advice by completing an on-line questionnaire at www.foodforthebrain.org.
SMART FOOD FOR SMART KIDS SHOPPING GUIDE
Parents can also download the Food for the Brain Foundation’s Smart Food For Smart Kids Shopping Guide,click here for the free download. This guide is designed to help parents throughout the UK make the right food choices to help improve their children’s brain function, behaviour and intelligence.
Food for the Brain is a charity and is funded by donations, all monies are gratefully received and help us to achieve our mission and contribute towards the costs of our campaign and projects. We thank you for any support you can give.