Effect of breakfast consumption on the cognitive and academic performances in schoolchildren: A cross sectional study in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Maha Al Turki, Sarah Al Shloi, Alhanouf Al Harbi, Alanoud Al Agil and Fatmah Othman

International Research Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences
Published: July 23 2019
Volume 7, Issue 3
Pages 75-83
DOl: https://doi.org/10.30918/IRJMMS.73.19.041


Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day, especially for schoolchildren. To address the need for data to develop public health policies and programs for children in Saudi Arabia, we aimed to investigate the association between breakfast consumption habits and cognitive/academic performances among primary schoolchildren in Riyadh. A cross-sectional study was conducted among schoolchildren (aged 6 to 12 years), randomly selected from 8 primary schools. Anthropometric measurements were obtained to determine the body mass index (BMI)-for-age percentile. A self-reported questionnaire was used to collect information on their breakfast consumption habits. Cognitive functioning was assessed using the Raven Progressive Matrices test. The academic performance was determined using their scores in three subjects. Statistical analyses were performed using STATA 15 (Stata Corp., College Station, Texas). A total of 384 students were included in this study. The mean (± SD) age of the subjects was 9.1 ± 1.7 years. Sixty percent of the schoolchildren reported consuming breakfast more than 4 times per week. Breakfast consumption was significantly associated with cognitive test scores. Children who consumed breakfast regularly were found to be twice more likely to achieve higher cognitive scores compared to those who were not regular breakfast consumers. A greater percentage of schoolchildren who consumed breakfast regularly achieved excellent scores in mathematics (78%), science (87%), and Arabic language (98%). However, the difference in the academic performances of regular breakfast consumers and skippers did not achieve statistical significance. In conclusion, the findings of the present study support the hypothesis that regular consumption of breakfast has a short-term positive impact on the cognitive function and performance among young children. Nevertheless, the long-term beneficial effects of having regular breakfast on the academic performances of schoolchildren were not confirmed. School breakfast programs should, therefore, be developed and implemented to promote healthy eating habits among school-age children.

Keywords: Breakfast habits, academic performance, cognitive function, schoolchildren, Saudi Arabia.

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