Fast Food Impedes Academic Performance, Study Suggests


A new nationwide survey conducted by researchers at Ohio State University revealed that a child’s daily consumption of fast food hampers his or her academic performance. The study showed that students on a regular fast food diet had slower growth in math, reading, and science skills compared to their non-fast food eating counterparts.

The study was led by Kelly M. Purtell, an assistant professor of human sciences at Ohio State University, in collaboration with Elizabeth T. Gershoff of the University of Texas. It was published in the journal of Clinical Pediatrics, writes Kelsey Clark of Deseret News.

Lead researcher Purtell discussed the importance of the message that the study has revealed.

“High levels of fast food consumption were predictive of lower growth in all three academic subjects. Students who ate the most fast food had test score gains that were up to about 20 percent lower than those who didn’t eat any fast food. Fast food is really pervasive right now, and there are a lot of reasons why kids eat it and why families use it. Because of this, we have to think broadly about lots of different ways to make families not be reliant on fast food.”

The survey was directed towards students between fifth and eighth grade regarding their eating habits. It aimed to record the frequency of fast food eaten and compare it to any recognizable academic gains made within duration of three-years.

Data was taken from 8,544 students who were part of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort. The data recorded also included various factors that might have potentially affected the grades, such as exercise, amount of television watched, overall diet, family income and the environment where the student’s neighborhood and school resides.

Research suggests that the low scores of regular fast food eating students compared to their peers could be related to the lack of nutrients (such as calcium, iron, Vitamin C, and zinc) from cognitive development boosting foods in their diets. The study also showed that the high sugar and fat composition in fast food hindered their memory and learning abilities, writes Sam P.K. Collins of Think Progress.

Democratic lawmakers, health officials, and educators have lauded the nutrition guidelines for the National School Lunch Program as a positive step in supplying children with a healthy diet required to excel academically. The study also stressed the need for parents to restrict their children’s fast food intake regardless of acknowledging the financial and time constraints that impede the preparation of healthy meals.

Dr. Kathryn Wilson, the National Food Service Management Institute’s executive director, shared her view of the movement towards healthy food during a Senate committee in July.

“School meal programs should also serve as a learning tool to educate children what a healthy meal looks like. We operate in the education arena, so school meals must be part of that education process.”

The cheap cost of fast food continue to attract low income families who feed it to their children. Such families are also less able to provide their children with other needs for proper educational development, such as books, a peaceful study place and more parental guidance.

The study also emphasized how fast food continues to be a worthy adversary with its glowing alluring advertisements and the increasing number of US children growing up on a fast food diet. Within the sample, about 52% had consumed fast food up to three times in the previous week, 10% had consumed it four to six times, and another 10% had consumed it daily, writes Kabir Chibber of Quartz.