Teenagers' bad diet leads to poor marks

14 May 2015

Amanda Davey

teenagers eating pizza

Teenagers who consume a diet high in junk food are more likely  to underperform at school than those who eat well, research from Western Australia shows.

The study of the dietary patterns of 14 year olds shows teenagers who favour a modern Western diet, high in saturated fat, refined sugar and sodium, and poor in nutrients do worse in maths, reading and writing compared to those who eat healthy food.

These findings are independent of BMI (body mass index) and physical activity, report the researchers. They note that the Western dietary pattern is associated with increased biomarkers predictive of the metabolic syndrome which is linked with cognitive dysfunction (difficulty with attention and reasoning)  “and possibly lower academic performance”.

A lack of micronutrients is detrimental to brain function, they write in the journal Nutrients.

But another possible explanation for the findings may be that adolescents who favour a Western diet may be less likely to eat regular meals and are likely to skip breakfast.

“Children who regularly eat breakfast tend to have better overall diet quality, and possibly vice versa,” they write.

“Breakfast provides the brain with fuel after an overnight fast, which is important in preserving brain functions. In addition,those children who eat breakfast generally have higher micronutrient intake compared to those who skip breakfast.”


Anett Nyaradi, Jianghong Li, Siobhan Hickling, Jonathan K. Foster, Angela Jacques, Gina L. Ambrosini, and Wendy H. Oddy. A Western Dietary Pattern Is Associated with Poor Academic Performance in Australian Adolescents. Nutrients 2015, 7(4), 2961-2982.
Amanda Davey