Eating out at fast food joints seems to be a way of life for most families, but one study has discovered a link between consumption of fast foods and a decline in testing ability among grade-school children. So detrimental are the changes in their body, say researchers at Ohio State University, that these children tend to score lower in science, math and reading tests.
Lower levels of academic achievement discovered among children who ate significant amounts of fast food. “There’s a lot of evidence that fast-food consumption is linked to childhood obesity, but the problems don’t end there,” says Kelly Purtell, lead author of the study and assistant professor of human sciences at Ohio State University. “Relying too much on fast food could hurt how well children do in the classroom.”
For the study, researchers studied over 11,000 students whose fast food consumption was high, testing them in the areas of reading/literacy, mathematics and science while also learning about their eating habits via a food consumption questionnaire.
The study, titled “Fast Food Consumption and Academic Growth in Late Childhood,” was published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics. More than two thirds of the sample reported some fast food consumption; 20 percent reported consuming at least 4 fast food meals in the prior week.
Fast food consumption during fifth grade predicted lower levels of academic achievement in all three subjects in eighth grade, even when fifth grade academic scores and numerous potential confounding variables, including socioeconomic indicators, physical activity, and TV watching, were controlled for in the models.
While this particular study shows the impact that fast foods have on test scores, it doesn’t explain what it is about such junk foods that leads to such results. However, other studies have pointed to the fact that fast foods are void of certain memory-boosting nutrients, like iron, that are ideal for cognitive development.
They also show that the high-sugar and high-fat diets that are typical in a fast food lifestyle are harmful when it comes to learning and immediate memory.