A new study finds that children who eat breakfast every day scored significantly higher on a range of IQ tests, suggesting that the first meal of the day refuels a child's brain, scientists say.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing examined data on 1,269 six-year-old children in China who performed a series of IQ tests. Children who often skipped breakfast scored 5.58 points lower on verbal, 2.50 points lower on performance, and 4.6 points lower on total IQ scores than kids who ate breakfast almost or always. The researchers controlled for sociodemographic factors as well.
"Childhood is a critical period in which dietary and lifestyle patterns are initiated, and these habits can have important immediate and long-term implications," says lead author Dr. Jianghong-Liu, associate professor at Penn Nursing. "Breakfast habits appear to be no exception, and irregular breakfast eating has already been associated with a number of unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, frequent alcohol use, and infrequent exercise."
At six years old, a child's verbal and performance levels are rapidly developing, and both the nutritional and social aspects of breakfast play key roles. The meal not only refuels their brain, the scientists say, but chatting with their parents during the meal expands their vocabulary and verbal skills.
Adults do well to eat their breakfast too. A study last year found that breakfast-skippers tend to weigh more and have other unhealthy habits, such as consuming too many sugary drinks or high-calories snacks. That study was presented last summer at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) 2012 Annual Meeting & Food Expo.