An evaluation of the impact of introducing a breakfast club on nutritional status and cognitive function in lower social class primary school children
Breakfast has been shown to increase the supply of glucose to the brain which improves short-term memory. On waking hepatic glycogenolysis is the major buffer against short-term (12-18 hrs) fasting. The higher ratio of brain weight to liver weight in the child (1.4 - 1.6 versus 0.73 for the adult) and the 50% greater metabolic rate per unit brain weight in the child, places a greater demand on the child's glycogenic stores during a short fast as compared to the adult. Few school breakfast studies have examined the effect of different breakfasts on cognitive performance. This study investigated the nutritional differences of a habitual breakfast consumed at hom (NBC) and breakfast served at a breakfast club in (BC) school and the effect of these breakfasts on cognitive performance. Subjects were primary school children aged 7-11 years old in Scotland. When baseline cognitive performance scores were compared to scored at data collections 2,3 and 4 there were more significantly pronounced improvements for the NBC group than the BC group (p < 0.001). There were significantly greater numbers of children eating a cooked breakfast in the BC group and significantly higher numbers of children eating a cereal breakfast in the NBC group. As a result breakfasts of the BC group were higher in fat (MUFA and PUFA) (p < 0.01) and lower in percentage energy from carbohydrate than the NBC group. Positive correlations existed between percentage energy from carbohydrate and percentage energy from starch and cognitive test performance (p < 0.01). This suggests that a breakfast higher in % energy from carbohydrate such as a cereal breakfast benefits short-term memory, by supplying the brain with readily available supply of glucose it's primary and preferred fuel. This results of this research provide evidence for the requirement of guidelines to ensure that breakfasts served at school will both assist learning in morning lessons and be in-line with healthy eating recommendations.