Dr.Avnish Jolly : Researchers say in fact that what children were eating in those days before primary school has more of an effect than the chicken nuggets they ate at lunchtime. Institute of Education, University of London say they have found that children who ate a diet of "junk food" at the age of three, made less progress in school between the ages of six and ten.
Junk food was defined as highly processed foods, ‘take-aways’ and foods high in fat and sugar, such as crisps, sweets and fizzy drinks. The research is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
The researchers say the 25% of children who ate the most junk food at age three were 10% less likely to achieve the expected levels of improvement between the ages of six and ten, compared with the rest of the children. They say children’s diet at later ages appears to have less impact on their school attainment.
The research is based on detailed information from the ‘Children of the 90s’ study, which has been following the development of 14,000 children since birth in 1991-2, which allowed researchers to adjust the statistics to take account of factors such as low income or poor housing and say even after adjustments were made for such factors, the association remained between poor diet at three and comparatively slow progress at school several years later.
Dr. Pauline Emmett, Researcher says they are confident that this is a robust association which indicates that early eating patterns have effects that persist over time, regardless of later changes in diet and it is therefore very important for children to eat a well-balanced diet from an early age if they are to get the best out of their education.