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Healthy Breakfast Can Improve Mental Math Skills

Update Date: Dec 06, 2013 10:35 AM EST

A healthy breakfast has been tied to improving cognitive skills and curbing hunger. Several studies have researched the benefits of eating a healthy breakfast and their findings tend to report that this meal is vital for physical and mental health. In another, more recent study, researchers examined the effects of eating a healthy breakfast in young children. They found that a good meal to start of the day could promote math performance.

The study, headed by scientist R. Terry Pivik, who directs the Brain Function Laboratory at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center, focused on 81 healthy young children. Pivek, who is also a research professor in pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences observed the mathematical abilities of children between the ages of eight and 11. The children were given two math tests in the morning with a 40-minute break in between. During the break, Pivek gave half of the children breakfast while the other half ate nothing.

As the children were taking the tests, Pivek used EEG (electroencephalographic) sensors to measure the children's brains. The EEG sensors were in a soft cap that was fitted on top of the children's heads. The researchers found that the children who had not been given breakfast had to increase brain effort when doing mental math. They also needed more effort in order to stay focused on the tests. The children who were given breakfast required less mental effort during the tests and were able to stay focused. Their scores showed improvement after they ask breakfast as well.

Pivek's study was the first published study to have controlled time of breakfast and type of breakfast in eight to 11-year-olds. The study's findings add on to previous conclusions that eating a healthy breakfast is important for cognitive function. The study was funded by the USDA and it was published first in the journal, Physiology and Behavior but was more recently described in the journal, Agricultural Research.

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