Healthy diet may be key to kids' reading skills

iStock

Healthy eating may offer young children an unexpected benefit – it might help them become better readers, a new study suggests.

Food diaries

Researchers in Finland found students' reading skills improved more between first grade and third grade if they didn't eat a lot of sugary foods or red meat, and if their diet consisted mainly of vegetables, berries and other fruits, as well as fish, whole grains and unsaturated fats.

The study included 161 Finnish students. They were between the ages of 6 and 8 (first grade to third grade). The researchers reviewed the children's diets and their reading ability using food diaries and standardised reading tests.

Read: Is your child a picky eater? It could be a sign of depression or anxiety

A healthier diet was associated with better reading skills by third grade, regardless of how well the students could read in first grade, the researchers said.

No cause-and-effect

"Another significant observation is that the associations of diet quality with reading skills were also independent of many confounding factors, such as socioeconomic status, physical activity, body adiposity [fat] and physical fitness," study author Eero Haapala said in a University of Eastern Finland news release. He is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyvaskyla.

Read: Health check: is caffeine actually bad for kids?

Does that mean parents of picky eaters should be concerned about their child's reading abilities? Not necessarily. Although this study found an association between the foods young children ate and their reading skills, it didn't prove cause-and-effect.

Still, the study's authors said parents, schools, governments and corporations all have an opportunity to enhance academic performance in schools by making healthy foods more available to children.

The study was published recently in the European Journal of Nutrition.

Read more:

Vitamins every child needs

Top 10 healthy eating tips for kids

30% of SA kids don't have packed lunches

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes
34% - 9270 votes
No
66% - 17915 votes
Vote