Food and Behaviour Research

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School breakfast improves verbal fluency in undernourished Jamaican children

Chandler AM, Walker SP, Connolly K, Grantham-McGregor SM. (1995) J Nutr.  125(4): 894-900. 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here


School feeding programs exist in many countries, but few have been properly evaluated.

In this study, the short-term effects of breakfast on children's cognitive functions were examined. The subjects were 97 undernourished (weight-for-age < or = -1 SD of reference) and 100 adequately nourished (weight-for-age > -1 SD) children in four primary schools in rural Jamaica. The children were randomly assigned to a group provided with breakfast or a group given a quarter of an orange as a placebo, and then given a battery of four cognitive function tests. After a few weeks the treatments were reversed and the tests repeated.

Undernourished children's performance improved significantly on a test of verbal fluency when they received breakfast, whereas that of the adequately nourished children did not change (breakfast x group interaction, P < 0.05). There were no other effects of breakfast on test scores.

The findings extend those of a previous Jamaican study conducted under more controlled conditions, and support the targeting of school meals to undernourished children.