Breakfast and behavior in morning tasks: Facts or fads?

J Affect Disord. 2017 Dec 15;224:16-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.12.028. Epub 2016 Dec 24.


Background: Most of the studies investigating the effects of breakfast on cognitive performance have compared performance in subjects who have or have not consumed this meal. However, characteristics of breakfast itself may influence mental abilities. Moreover, as far as the positive effects of having breakfast is more evident, research may focus on the specific characteristics of an adequate breakfast.

Methods: To update an existing systematic review, published at the beginning of 2014, on the role of nutrient composition and/or energy intake at breakfast on the accomplishment of school-related tasks and cognition, we carried out a systematic review of the literature through PUBMED database.

Results: From the literature search, we identified 39 papers, of which 2 were eligible according to our inclusion criteria. Both the selected papers concerned randomized crossover studies on the acute effect of breakfast carried out in a school setting in the United Kingdom. Both studies compared 2 iso-energetic breakfasts with a similar macronutrient composition; however, the alternative breakfasts were meant to differ in terms of glycemic index or glycemic load. The effects of breakfast composition were investigated on memory, attention, and information processing in both studies. However, different tests and subdomains were considered.

Limitations: Studies on these issues are still inconsistent and quantitatively insufficient to draw firm conclusions.

Conclusions: While the hypothesis of a better mental performance with breakfast>20% daily energy intake still needs confirmation, there does appear to be extra evidence that a lower postprandial glycemic response is beneficial to mental performance.

Keywords: Academic performance; Breakfast; Breakfast composition; Cognitive performance; Energy intake at breakfast.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Attention*
  • Breakfast / physiology*
  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Energy Intake*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Schools