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LIFE

Have a good breakfast; coffee is good for you again; the raisin test

High-quality breakfast linked to good grades, raisin predicts future academic ability, how coffee can stave off the Grim Reaper

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 November, 2015, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 November, 2015, 9:01pm

Study provides strongest evidence yet of a link between breakfast quality and educational outcomes

Children who eat breakfast perform significantly better at school, according to a new study of 5,000 primary school children aged nine to 11. Public health experts at Cardiff University found the odds of achieving an above-average educational performance were up to twice as high for pupils who ate breakfast, compared with those who did not. However, eating unhealthy items such as sweets and crisps for breakfast, which was reported by one in five children, had no positive impact on educational attainment. Other dietary behaviours – including number of sweets and crisps and fruit and vegetable portions consumed throughout the rest of the day – were all significantly and positively associated with educational performance. The study participants, from more than 100 primary schools, were asked to list all food and drink consumed over a period of just over 24 hours (including two breakfasts). The researchers examined the link between food intake and quality and subsequent attainment in a test six to 18 months later. Social scientists in Britain say the research, published in the Public Health Nutrition journal, offers the strongest evidence yet of a meaningful link between dietary behaviours and concrete measures of academic attainment.

How a raisin can predict a toddler’s future academic ability

A simple test using a raisin can predict how well a toddler will perform academically at age eight, according to a study in The Journal of Paediatrics by University of Warwick researchers. Using just the piece of dried fruit placed under an opaque plastic cup, they have devised a test based on how long a 20-month-old child can wait to pick up a raisin in front of them. After three training runs, toddlers were asked to wait until they were told (60 seconds later) they could touch and eat the raisin. In the study that involved more than 550 children born in Germany, it was found that those who were born very prematurely were more likely to take the raisin before the allotted time. In a follow-on study, the academics found that those who couldn’t inhibit their behaviour as toddlers weren’t performing as well in school as their full-term peers seven years later. The academics believe that being able to identify cognitive problems early on could result in the development of specialist, tailored education to help prevent these children underachieving at school and later on as adults.

Moderate coffee drinking may lower risk of premature death

Drinking about three to five cups of coffee a day may reduce your risk of death from heart disease, neurological diseases, type 2 diabetes and suicide, according to a new study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee were found to be beneficial. “Bioactive compounds in coffee reduce insulin resistance and systematic inflammation,” says first author Ming Ding, a doctoral student. “That could explain some of our findings. However, more studies are needed to investigate the biological mechanisms producing these effects.” The findings are based on data from three large ongoing US studies involving a total of more than 200,000 people. Researchers assessed coffee drinking every four years using validated food questionnaires and followed participants for up to 30 years. “Regular consumption of coffee can be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet,” says senior author Dr Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard. “However, certain populations such as pregnant women and children should be cautious about high caffeine intake from coffee or other beverages.”