Fast Food Flunk: The Snacks That Might Sink Your Grades

Fish has long been hailed as “brain food” due to the natural substances it contains that help improve cognitive function. However, there are certain foods that can harm a child’s brain development, leading to worsening academic performance, especially in the areas of science, math, and reading.

A study conducted at The Ohio State University demonstrates that a high consumption of fast food by children in the fifth grade may cause their school performance to plummet by the time they reach the eighth grade.

The research revealed that the students who consumed the largest quantities of fast food ended up with test scores that were, on average, roughly 20% lower than their peers who abstained from such fare.

The Potential Consequences of Fast Food Consumption on Young Brains

The researchers behind the study attempted to control for and account for all known factors that could be involved in how well children performed on their tests. As a result, their findings strongly indicate that over-consumption of fast food could adversely affect learning and memory among young students.

These findings echo earlier research implicating a link between the consumption of fast food and childhood obesity. In both cases, the problems appear to extend well beyond the immediate health risks associated with a diet high in fats, sugars, and calories.

The Surprising Prevalence of Fast Food in Student Diets

Data for the Ohio State University study came from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, a large-scale survey that tracked the progress of more than 11,700 students in the 1998-1999 academic year.

According to researcher Kelly Purtell, the level of fast food consumption among these students was “quite high.” She reported that only 29% of the surveyed children refrained from eating fast food in a given week. In contrast, approximately 10% of the students ate fast food daily and another 10% consumed it four to six times per week. The remaining 50% of participants dined on fast food one to three times per week.

Students who ate fast food four to six times a week or every day experienced the greatest difficulties in school when compared to children who did not partake in fast food at all.

Balancing Fast Food Consumption with Better Brain Health

While the study does not provide definitive proof that fast-food consumption is the direct cause of reduced academic performance, it is worth considering the potential negative impacts of a diet that may lack the key nutrients necessary for healthy brain development. Fast food is typically not rich in iron and often contains detrimental levels of fat and sugar, both of which can impede learning and memory function.

As Purtell herself points out, “We’re not saying that parents should never feed their children fast food, but these results suggest fast-food consumption should be limited as much as possible.”

To ensure that your child enjoys optimal brain health, it is important to prioritize a balanced diet that is rich in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Some foods known to boost brain health include fatty fish, berries, nuts, avocados, dark chocolate, and leafy greens.

Sixth grade readers might not fully comprehend every detail of this article, but the key takeaway is clear: maintain a well-rounded diet for the sake of your cognitive health, and avoid relying too heavily on fast food.