We’ve all heard it before: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Personally, breakfast has always been my least favorite meal of the day – I dislike eggs, cereal, bagels (for the most part), and fruit only fills me up for so long. So, after years of them drilling the importance of breakfast into my head, I decided to actually investigate the research behind it.
The hypothesis is that eating breakfast positively effects cognitive performance. However, chance is always still a factor to be discussed, as well as null hypothesis (or that there is no correlation between eating breakfast and brain performance).
About the study
This is a widely known and studied concept, so the studies you come across are endless. I stumbled upon a study conducted by David P. Wyon , National Institutional of Occupations Health, Denmark, and colleagues. In this experimental study, they focused primarily on the energy intake at breakfast, meaning plentiful breakfasts would impact the children’s energy performance during the school day.
How the study was conducted
To start, Wyon and colleagues reached out to parents of 10 year-olds across five schools, asking if they would change their child’s breakfast routine for a period of 4 days. After responses, they sent out breakfasts to 195 families; however, the breakfast varied in energy (high or low). The breakfasts were randomly assigned to the children throughout the duration of the experiment. The children then underwent performance tests, to see how the energy at breakfast effects their performance throughout the rest of the day. Side note: teachers conducting the tests were blind to the procedure details (aka which children had been given what breakfast).
Children that received 20% more energy packed in her breakfasts than recommended tested drastically better physically and creatively, contrary to the children in which received breakfasts which 10% less energy recommended. The children receiving the higher energy breakfasts also reported less issues (i.e. fatigue, hunger, etc.).
I also came across one conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. In this study, they looked at the correlation between eating breakfast and IQ scores. In this study, they took 1,269 six year-olds in China, and compared children who ate breakfast regularly vs those who did not. Those who did not eat breakfast scores 4.6 points lower on IQ tests than those who did. Granted, these are 6 year olds we’re talking about here, so there could be a ton of third confounding variables that the study did not explore. However, the point of experimenting on 6 year-olds, was because childhood is a crucial period to learn habitual routines. These routines learned at a young age can carry into teenage years and even into adulthood, and can have other implications along the way. So maybe if my mom had force fed me breakfast as a child I’d have a higher IQ now… Thanks, mom.
What can we do with this information?
In the studies above, each result demonstrates the importance of a hearty breakfast in the morning. However, chance could still play a factor in these studies; however, many experiments have come to similar conclusions, making it very unlikely. So, nothing new or fascinating here in this blog post. Sorry to disappoint, the doctors were right. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I guess I have to start liking eggs now.
Wyon, David P., Lillemor Abrahamsson, Marja Jartelius, and Red J. Fletcher. “An Experimental Study of the Effects of Energy Intake at …” Taylor & Francis Online. N.p., 6 July 2009. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. “Can breakfast make kids smarter?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130205143334.htm>.