Associations between selected dietary behaviours and academic achievement: A study of Australian school aged children

Appetite. 2017 Sep 1:116:372-380. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.05.008. Epub 2017 May 6.


Background: Research investigating the effects of dietary behaviours on children's academic achievement has predominately focused on breakfast consumption. The aim of this study was to conduct secondary analysis to examine associations between a range of dietary behaviours and children's academic achievement.

Methodology: Data on five dietary variables (fruit intake; vegetable intake; consumption of takeaway; sugar sweetened beverages; and breakfast) and scores in the five domains of a standardised academic achievement test known as NAPLAN (reading, writing, grammar/punctuation, spelling and numeracy) were obtained for Australian children aged 8-15 years in school grades three (n = 1185), five (n = 1147), seven (n = 1053) and nine (n = 860). Mixed linear models adjusted for socioeconomic status and gender were used to examine associations between dietary behaviours and academic scores.

Results: Greater consumption of vegetables with the evening meal (7 nights/week) was associated with higher test scores in the domains of spelling and writing (p=<0.01), with the greatest effect observed for spelling with a mean score difference of 86 ± 26.5 NAPLAN points between the highest and lowest levels of consumption (95% CI: 34.0-138.1; p=<0.01). Increased consumption of sugar sweetened beverages was associated with significantly lower test scores in reading, writing, grammar/punctuation and numeracy (<0.01).

Principle conclusions: The findings of this study demonstrate dietary behaviours are associated with higher academic achievement. Future research should further explore relationships between a wide range of dietary behaviours and children's academic achievement.

Keywords: Academic achievement; Adolescents; Children; Diet; Diet assessment; Diet behaviour; Nutrition.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Success*
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Australia
  • Beverages
  • Breakfast
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Diet, Healthy
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Fruit
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Schools
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vegetables