Children who eat oatmeal as opposed to cold cereal or no breakfast at all perform better on memory tasks, according to new research findings announced at the Society for Neuroscience 31st Annual Meeting in San Diego this week.
Conducted by Tufts University this is the first U.S. study to compare the effects of eating two different breakfast foods, versus no breakfast, on cognitive performance in young children.
The study found that complex tasks are most affected by the difference in breakfast foods. More than two-thirds of the children performed better on tasks of spatial memory, important for maths and geography skills, when they ate oatmeal compared to those who had not eaten breakfast.
``This study has led to a greater understanding of how nutrition can positively affect a child's ability to learn,'' said Robin Kanarek, a professor at Tufts University, and one of the lead investigators. ``These findings are particularly important for parents to consider when deciding what to feed their children before sending them to school.''
The three-week, scientific study was conducted among 30 middle-income, Boston-area students ages 9 to 11. Each child participated one day a week over the three-week period. Each time they had one of the following: instant oatmeal, cold cereal or no breakfast. Sixty minutes after breakfast, children began testing, and within two hours after eating, the children completed testing. When the children ate oatmeal they performed 5 to 12 per cent better on spatial memory tests than when they ate cold cereal or no breakfast, by correctly recalling more country names on a map and leaving fewer regions blank.
``Oatmeal's whole grain, high fibre and protein attributes are believed to be some of the primary factors in increasing spatial memory performance in young children,'' said Kanarek. ``These nutritional attributes help delay digestion and promote a slower and prolonged release of glucose in the blood system. The improved performance with oatmeal suggests that this process may enhance cognitive performance because the brain is dependent on a constant supply of glucose to satisfy its energy demands.''