Brain development continues throughout childhood and requires micronutrients for optimal maturation, but studies have typically examined only a limited number of micronutrients and there has been inconsistent use of validated cognitive measures. This study evaluated the impact of providing low-income children with a daily fortified meal (570 kcal) in the form of a bar and shake containing >75% of the FDA Daily Values for all essential vitamins and minerals, as well as macronutrients (e.g., omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and protein), in an afterschool care setting (instead of the usual meal provided) on cognitive functioning. Students aged 8-12 were randomly assigned to intervention (n = 19) or control (n = 16) meals. Students completed the Stroop Color Word Task, Trail Making Test, and Conner's Continuous Performance Task (CPT) at baseline and 3 months post-intervention. Differences in cognitive scores were examined using 2 × 2 mixed model ANOVAs (Stroop and CPT) and ANCOVAs (Trail Making Test). Significant main effects of time indicated improvements in both intervention and control groups, but there were no significant main effects of group or group*time interactions. When the amount of meal consumed was examined, most results became non-significant, suggesting that overall meal consumption significantly impacted the observed results. Overall, this pilot study suggests that there may be limited additional benefits to short-term consumption of micronutrient fortified meals among low-income children in an afterschool care setting, and potential benefits observed may be directly related to the amount of food consumed.
Keywords: child and adolescent diet; cognitive functioning; executive functioning; micronutrients.