Sadly, though, one study has discovered a link between consumption of fast foods and a decline in testing ability among grade-school children. So detrimental are the changes in their body, say researchers at Ohio State University, that these children tend to score lower in science, math and reading tests. Their findings transcend the common thought that children who eat fast foods are just prone to the health setbacks resulting from weight gain.
Lower levels of academic achievement discovered among children who ate significant amounts of fast food
"There's a lot of evidence that fast-food consumption is linked to childhood obesity, but the problems don't end there," says Kelly Purtell, lead author of the study and assistant professor of human sciences at Ohio State University. "Relying too much on fast food could hurt how well children do in the classroom."
For the study, researchers studied over 11,000 students whose fast food consumption was high, testing them in the areas of reading/literacy, mathematics and science while also learning about their eating habits via a food consumption questionnaire.
The study, titled "Fast Food Consumption and Academic Growth in Late Childhood," was published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics. It state the results as follows:
More than two thirds of the sample reported some fast food consumption; 20% reported consuming at least 4 fast food meals in the prior week. Fast food consumption during fifth grade predicted lower levels of academic achievement in all 3 subjects in eighth grade, even when fifth grade academic scores and numerous potential confounding variables, including socioeconomic indicators, physical activity, and TV watching, were controlled for in the models.
While this particular study shows the impact that fast foods have on test scores, it doesn't explain what it is about such junk foods that leads to such results. However, other studies have pointed to the fact that fast foods are void of certain memory-boosting nutrients, like iron, that are ideal for cognitive development. They also show that the high-sugar and high-fat diets that are typical in a fast food lifestyle are harmful when it comes to learning and immediate memory.
Dietary suggestions to boost memory and improve cognitive ability
To boost memory and learning ability in both children and adults, turn to a diet that focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and seeds, rather than undesirable fast foods. Several sources of iron exist such as pumpkin seeds, white beans, blackstrap molasses, spinach and lentils.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also notes that such foods are essential to maintain proper iron levels. They state that feelings of fatigue, slowed cognitive and social development during childhood and decreased immune function are among some of the sings of an iron deficiency and that "Iron deficiency may also affect memory or other mental function in teens."
The CDC notes:
In general, you can eat a healthful diet that includes good sources of iron. A healthful diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat free or nonfat milk and milk products, lean meats, fish, dry beans, eggs, nuts, and is low in saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars. In addition to a healthful diet that includes good sources of iron, you can also eat foods that help your body absorb iron better. For example, you can eat a fruit or vegetable that is a good source of vitamin C with a food or meal that contains non-heme iron. Vitamin C helps your body absorb the non-heme iron foods you eat, especially when the food containing non-heme iron and the vitamin-C rich food are eaten at the same meal.
Non-heme means that it's derived from plant sources rather than animal products such as poultry, meat and fish.