Does What Children Eat Affect How They Behave?

An interesting study out of London, England says yes! The types of food children eat can significantly affect both behavior and performance.

Background:

The study, done at Plumcroft Primary School in London, England, split a group of children into two teams. These children, ages 5-9, came from similar backgrounds and routinely participated in an after-school club together. They were separated into the Yellow Team and the Blue Team on the two sides of their gymnasium, divided off by a screen so the teams could not see each other. They were fed distinctly different types of food, and then their behavior and performance at various children’s games was measured by a team of social scientists.

Their parents, who did not know which group had eaten which foods, were then brought in to observe the children and asked to describe the performance and behaviors they observed.

What they ate:

  • The Yellow Team was fed traditional, British processed party food: sausage rolls, processed crisps, fizzy pop, cakes and other sweets.
  • The Blue Team was given healthier food:  whole-grain bread sandwiches, fruit, cucumber chunks and foods that did not contain additives, colorings and sugar.

The Yellow Team immediately began eating, because they were used to the traditional party foods. It took the Blue Team a little longer to warm up to the foods, but they seemed to like them quite well in the end.

The behavior differences between the two groups were dramatic, as highlighted below.

Types of Negative Blue Team Yellow Team
Behavior Observed Healthier Foods Processed Foods
Meanness 0 69
Physical Aggression 8 63
Hyperactivity 30 163
Bad Behavior 120 720

In addition, the Blue Team performed 48% better on games. They were calmer, concentrated better, listened and followed instructions better. The Yellow Team exhibited more restlessness and were inattentive and failed to follow instructions.

The parents observed that when their children ate traditional party foods, their brains and behavior were both very negatively affected. They were moody, hyperactive, inattentive and screaming. One parent mentioned how difficult bedtime is after parties.

 

Conclusion:

The children who ate the “healthier” foods performed better and behaved better. What the researchers could not conclude from this study was whether it was because of what they ate (healthy foods with good micronutrients) or what they did not consume (sugar, additives and artificial coloring).  Whatever the reason, the results make it well worth considering dietary changes as a way to improve children’s behavior and performance!

Watch more back ground on the study here.

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