food for the brain

Championing optimum nutrition for the mind

Schools project

How to Optimise Children's Behaviour, Intelligence and School Results

There have been more than enough studies to show that multivitamins, essential fat supplements, low sugar, additive-free diets improve children's learning and behaviour, but what happens if you give a child all of this at once - optimum nutrition for the brain, plus daily structured exercise designed to improve coordination (SAQ Training System)?

The Food for the Brain Schools Campaign aimed to find out, in a unique initiative involving two primary schools, by radically improving their nutrition over a period of six months. To view the reports on how optimum nutrition for the brain changed children’s results click below:

Cricket Green School, Merton
Chineham Park Primary School, Hants

The campaign, supported by the National Association of Head Teachers and most of the leading charities in mental health, was run by Food for the Brain, the charity set up with the support and advice of some of the leading brains in psychology, brain chemistry, nutrition, education and psychiatry. "We want to change the whole culture around food, not just for the kids at school but also at home, giving them a daily multivitamin and essential fat supplement, and measuring the results in terms of behaviour, school grades, learning and IQ" says Patrick Holford, Director of Food for the Brain.

The first school we worked with was a primary school in London for children with special educational needs. This involved workshops with both the kids and parents, in order to encourage them to try out new foods, fresh fruit and water every day at school, a ban on sugary drinks and snacks, and a super-healthy lunch menu. The children also did special exercises (SAQ), which enhance coordination. Each child was tested before and after, with a mid-point testing at three months. The second school started after the summer holidays in 2006 and ran through till May 2007, when the children sat their SATs tests, to enable a comparison of SATs scores from one year to the next. This was filmed by the Tonight with Trevor McDonald programme and details of the project were broadcast at the halfway point on ITV on the 5th January 2007. The final results were broadcast after the SATs test scores had been announced on the 13 July 2007, which revealed significant improvements in all the criteria measured within the project.

This is the first ever project of this kind and the results are striking. The teachers reported less impulsivity, which means the children can concentrate and learn better. The parents also reported less hyperactivity and better social skills, which means better behaviour. The scale of these results has not been achieved by diet alone, and are consistent with other studies involving supplements. This project demonstrated that an improved diet, plus supplements and daily exercise is a winning formula. However, the key is involving parents and children every step of the way to take on board a healthier lifestyle. We hope that transformations like this will encourage all schools to make similar changes, and encourage Government to support schools in putting good nutrition high up on the agenda. For more details see the Special Report.

The Food for the Brain team for these projects also included Kerry Torrens, a nutritional therapist who has helped students in university improve their diet; nutritionist and kitchen wizard, Fiona McDonald Joyce, co-author of Smart Food Smart Kids (Piatkus); catering expert Professor David Russell, psychologists Dr Madeleine Portwood, Hannah Himes and Melanie Herff, and nutritional therapists Patrick Holford and Deborah Colson, co-authors of Optimum Nutrition for Your Child (Piatkus). Deborah treats children with mental health problems at the Brain Bio Centre clinic in London.

Food for the Brain is working closely with contract caterers and innovative food, drink, health and wellbeing companies to create a sustainable result for other schools to follow. "It's no good just proving what works” says Holford "we want to make sure that schools can access school meals that maximise a child's potential and that parents also have access to both the information and the kinds of food that make a difference."

If you would like Food for the Brain to give a talk at your school, or advise you about your school’s nutrition strategy email us at info@foodforthebrain.org.