Few people would argue that fast food is good for anyone. And fewer still that it’s good for a growing child. However, that doesn’t stop it from being a reliable source of quick and cost effective meals for a lot of parents. However, new research suggests this might have a direct negative impact on a child’s academic performance.
The study, published in the journal of Clinical Pediatrics, used data gathered from 8,544 children. The study looked at the children’s performance at age 10. After factoring in to prevent conflicting factors from influencing the results, it then compared how they performed at age 13. The results showed a clear decrease in accademic performance among children who ate fast food every day.
My colleague, Ben Shaoul and I were discussing the other day how low income can impact academic performance. As developers, we unfortunately see these kinds of situations all the time. It’s easy to assume that the study was simply showcasing the eating habits of low-income families. The researchers themselves were quick to consider that possibility as well. Part of the initial sorting of the data involved removal of associated factors such as income and even activity level. All children were directly measured against themselves and their peers.
The larger question is where this effect is coming from. At the moment the researchers don’t have any firm answers. There are some theories, including lack of iron or other important nutrients. Some researchers also suggest that sugar or artificial sweeteners might contribute to the effect. At the moment though, there’s no firm answer until further research can be conducted.