A healthy diet may develop better reading skills in the first three school years, shows a recent study from Finland.
The study involved 161 children aged 6-8 years old and the quality of their diet was analysed using food diaries and their academic skills with the help of standardised tests.
The study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, showed that children whose diet was rich in vegetables, fruits, berries, whole grain, fish and unsaturated fats, and low in sugary products, did better in tests measuring reading skills than their peers with a poorer diet quality.
The study also found that the positive associations of diet quality with reading skills in Grades 2 and 3 were not related to reading skills in Grade 1. These results indicate that children with healthier diets improved more in their reading skills from Grade 1 to Grades 2-3 than children with poorer diet quality.
“Another significant observation is that the associations of diet quality with reading skills were also independent of many confounding factors, such as socio-economic status, physical activity, body adiposity, and physical fitness,” said Eero Haapala, Researcher at the University of Eastern Finland.
Diets like Baltic Sea Diet and Finnish nutrition recommendations — high in vegetables, fruits and berries, fish, whole grain, and unsaturated fats and low in red meat, sugary products, and saturated fat — are considered healthier.
A healthy diet seems to be an important factor in supporting learning and academic performance in children.
“Parents and schools have an important role in making healthy foods available to children. Furthermore, governments and companies play a key role in promoting the availability and production of healthy foods,” Haapala added.