Does Breakfast Make Us Smarter?

One phrase that most individuals have heard in their lifetime is, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” As a college student, I find the idea of waking up early enough to grab breakfast prior to class very unappealing. On the other hand, research has shown, missing this important component of your day could be jeopardizing your academic performance

While researching this topic, two questions came to mind. My first question was whether eating breakfast helps college students’ perform better on exams? And my second question was how much of a positive difference does eating breakfast make in college students’ academic performances?


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Gregory Phillips, a researcher at Blinn College, set out to answer the questions stated above. In this study, Phillips gathered a group of 1,259 college students and asked the group whether or not they had eaten breakfast on the morning before their second exam of a specific class. Whether or not the students had eaten breakfast was considered the independent variable. Only about 65% of students stated that they had eaten breakfast that morning.


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When collecting information on the dependent variable–exam performance–Phillips waited until the students were taking their second exams to compare the results of those students who had eaten breakfast and those who had not. The reason that Phillips chose the second exam to collect data was in an attempt to eliminate potential third confounding variables, such as adjusting to a new teacher or adjusting to the type of exams the students would be taking in that class. Some problems I noticed with this study were that Phillips never specified if all of the students had the same teacher or whether the exams were given at the same time of day.. A different professor could have a substantial effect on the scores between classes and differing exam times could change the impact of the breakfast meal.

In the write up of his findings, Phillips talked about some of the limiting factors that he faced while conducting his study. The first thing that Philips mentioned was that he did not know what the students had for breakfast. The students were asked if they had eaten breakfast prior to  the exam, not what they had eaten for breakfast. Because this was an observational study, Phillips was restricted from telling individuals what to eat for breakfast.

After analyzing the data, I feel confident in concluding that the consumption of breakfast does indeed have a positive effect on how well students perform in the classroom. Despite a few minor variables that could have impacted the results of the study, the positive effects were undeniable. It was quite apparent that a full stomach in the morning is positively correlated with a better performance in an academic setting.

5 thoughts on “Does Breakfast Make Us Smarter?

  1. Pengji Wei

    Hello Greg. Great article. Everyday, when I FaceTime with my parents, They always tell me that breakfast is important, so eat it every morning. Because eat breakfast can gave us energy in the morning, and the heart can pump more blood to the brain let brain more actively. And there are some nutrients in the breakfast food which can not gave us in other food we ate in other time of the day. Here is an article about this.
    Even though I knew these facts already, I did not take my parents’ advice seriously. Because as a college student, we found that we do have time for breakfast. For some reasons, sleeping is more important to us than breakfast. But it is true that you said in the blog that breakfast might have some impact to our exams, so it’ s bette to let student to eat breakfast more often.

  2. Chris North

    I think that not knowing what these students were eating for breakfast leaves a major hole in his experiment. “Breakfast” could constitute anything from a single pop-tart to something as filling as a hearty bowl of cereal with fruit. It seems like this leaves a lot of room for confounding variables. The students who eat only a single pop-tart must be closer hunger-wise to the students who ate nothing than the students who ate a large, healthy breakfast.

    1. Greg Belluscio Post author

      Yeah, I agree that that does leave a major hole in the experiment. The only way I would have changed the study if i had run it myself would be to ask the students what they had to eat and maybe categorize them into different groups. This could have revealed if it was just the act of consuming food or the type of food consumed that made the difference in grades.

  3. Lydia A Chelli

    Personally, I feel less focused when I have not eaten breakfast before my 8 AM class because I am solely focusing on my hunger and what I should eat after class. In addition, I feel that I have no quite yet waken up, and since I have not had breakfast, the day has not fully begun. I agree with the analysis of the study that eating is one thing, but the specific food or meal eaten can play a large role as well. Did the study specify any breakfast foods that can boost one’s energy and start their day happily? Great post!

    1. Greg Belluscio Post author

      Hey Lydia,
      Unfortunately because the study was observational, the researchers could not control what food the students were eating. In the study the researchers even say that for the students, breakfast could be anything, all that mattered to them was the time in which the food was consumed. But I do agree that the type of food consumed would make a major difference in the outcome of the study.

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