Skip to content

What Are The Effects Of Unhealthy Eating On Kids Academic Performance?

Student in exam | Effects of Unhealthy Eating on Academic Performance | Brisbane Nutritionist | Perpetual Wellbeing

What Are The Effects Of Unhealthy Eating On Kids Academic Performance?

Posted in

Many parents worry about the impact of their children not getting enough of the right foods in their diet and an Australian study has confirmed a long-held theory that eating foods with low nutritional value results in poor academic performance particularly in numeracy, reading and language (spelling, grammar and punctuation). So what are the effects of unhealthy eating on kids academic performance?

The study involved 528 children, aged 9 to 11 years old in 26 schools in South Australia and the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) was used as the indicator of academic standard.

The key finding was that children consuming more foods such as cakes, donuts, pizzas, hamburgers, soft drinks and energy drinks had a lower academic performance than those consuming more of the healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables.  Areas affected were language, numeracy and reading, but not writing.*

Children eating healthy foods less frequently and unhealthy foods more frequently in an average week had significantly lower NAPLAN scores than children with any other food combination pattern.*

Interestingly, however, diets high in nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables and wholegrain bread did not clearly result in higher NAPLAN scores and a couple of potential theories have been put forward as to why this might be the case.

The first is that a certain threshold level of nutrients delivered via core foods is required for cognition, and any above this threshold does not deliver added benefits. The second is that beyond nutrients, additives in unhealthy foods such as preservatives and colourings that affect child behaviour, may also be impacting academic performance.

The researchers have indicated that further studies are required to understand this in greater detail.

If you are concerned about the effects of unhealthy eating and whether your child is getting enough essential nutrients in their diet make an appointment with one of the professionally qualified nutritionists at Perpetual Wellbeing today.


* Pearce K, Golley R, Lewis L, Cassidy L, Olds T, Maher C. The Apples of Academic Performance: Associations Between Dietary Patterns and Academic Performance in Australian Children. J Sch Health. 2018;88(6):444-452. doi:10.1111/josh.12631.

We offer Naturopathy and Nutritional Medicine consultations

at 2 convenient locations, Brisbane CBD and Graceville