Breakfast is the food of academic champions

Now we have the evidence that children perform better at school if they start their day with a healthy meal, there’s no excuse for skipping breakfast

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 11:59pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 11:59pm

Most of us are familiar with feeling that life can get so busy that we don’t have time for everything. One of the common casualties is a healthy breakfast – or any breakfast – before we leave home. After all, we can “catch up” later in the day, with a take-out, even if a doctor would not recommend it as best practice.

But does it set a poor example? Researchers at the faculty of education at the Chinese University of Hong Kong have been alarmed to find that those who skip breakfast are getting younger. An analysis of data from 15,000 schoolchildren and 12,000 parents over the past six months found that fewer pupils eat breakfast regularly as they grow older.

Hong Kong pupils who eat breakfast daily ‘18 months ahead of those who skip the meal’

The study found that 75 per cent of Primary Three pupils eat breakfast every day, 60 per cent in Primary Six and only 41 per cent in Form Three. Thirteen per cent of the latter said they never eat breakfast, which cannot be healthy at that age.

A paediatrician says those who eat breakfast regularly are less prone to obesity and more likely to enjoy good cardiovascular health. More controversial is the finding that those who ate breakfast every day scored 30 to 50 points more in two internationally recognised tests – the Programme for International Student Assessment and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study – than counterparts of the same age who skipped breakfast. Educational psychologist Professor Hau Kit-tai said the effect could be equivalent to an additional 1.5 years of education, or that children starting Primary Three could be as good as those in mid-Primary Four.

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He then added an observation that may give many “tiger mums” food for thought: “Helping kids develop the habit of eating breakfast is much more effective than signing them up for tutorials or other academic programmes.”

We are not going to debate that, except to suggest that good time management could accommodate both a regular healthy breakfast habit and extra tuition.