Good nutrition not only improves your child’s physical condition but may also advance his or her reading abilities, according to a new Finnish study.
Researchers in Finland found students' reading skills improved more between first grade and third grade if they didn't eat a lot of sugary foods or red meat, and if their diet consisted mainly of vegetables, berries and other fruits, as well as fish, whole grains and unsaturated fats.
The study involved 161 students between the ages of 6 and 8 (first through 3rd grade). Researchers reviewed the children's diets and their reading ability using food diaries and standardized reading tests.
The study showed that a healthier diet was associated with better reading skills by third grade, regardless of how well the students could read in first grade, the researchers said.
"Another significant observation is that the associations of diet quality with reading skills were also independent of many confounding factors, such as socioeconomic status, physical activity, body adiposity [fat] and physical fitness," study author Eero Haapala said in a University of Eastern Finland news release. He is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyvaskyla.
As with most studies, the research did not prove cause and effect, but an association between the foods the students ate and their reading skills.
The study's authors noted that parents, schools, governments and corporations all have an opportunity to enhance academic performance in schools by making healthy foods more available to children.
The study was published recently in the European Journal of Nutrition.