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ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS

Essential Nutrients-Cognition:  Research Article

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Effects of Breakfast on Cognitive Performance
 
Effects of Breakfast on Cognitive Performance

Taken from Nutritional Neuroscience, Table 6-1 by H. R. Leiberman and R. B. Kanarek, and C. Prasad editors. 2005. Taylor & Francis:  New York.
 

Author Participants Manipulation Meal Cognitive Tasks Results
Cromer et al. (1990) Children, Grade 9 Government breakfast vs. a low calorie breakfast Government: doughnut, orange juice, chocolate milk 424 kcal, 11.5 g protein, 63.9 g carbohydrate, 14.1 g fat Low-calorie meal: 8 oz sugar-free powdered drink mix and half cup sugar-free gelatin.
12 kcal, 1.6 g protein, 1 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat
Continuous performance task (CPT)
Matching familiar figures 
Rey auditory-verbal
No differences
Duam et al. (1955) Children, 12 to 14 years Size and content of breakfast 745 kcal, 24.5 g protein, 28.6 g fat, 97.9 g carbohydrate 744 kcal, 24.8 g protein, 36.8 g fat, 97.9 g carbohydrate 797 kcal, 26.6 g protein, 44.9 g fat, 72.6 g carbohydrate 1215 kcal, 40.9 g protein, 53.6 g fat, 143 g carbohydrate Choice reaction time No differences between breakfast content or breakfast size
Lieberman et al. (1976) Children, Grades 3 to 6 School breakfast vs. no breakfast ? School attendance Reading scores Arithmetic scores No Differences
Lopez et al. (1993) Children, Grades 4 to 6 Breakfast vs. no breakfast for normal, wasted, and stunted children 394 kcal, 6 g protein 
No breakfast
Memory test
Domino test — problem solving
Attention test
No Differences
Politt et al. (1981) Children 9 to 11 years Breakfast vs. no breakfast Waffles, syrup, margarine, orange juice, and milk 535 kcal, 15 g protein, 20 g fat, 75 g carbohydrate 
Or no breakfast
Matching familiar figures test (MFFT)
Continuous performance task
Hagen central- incidental task (HCI)
Problem solving better with breakfast Fasting better in short-term memory
Smith et al. (1994), Study 2 Adults Breakfast vs. no breakfast and caffeine vs. no caffeine Cooked breakfast: two eggs, two pieces bacon, one slice whole wheat toast, 10 g margarine 
No breakfast
Free recall
Recognition memory 
Logical reasoning Semantic processing
More words recalled with breakfast 
Fewer false alarms with breakfast 
More accuracy without breakfast No effect of breakfast
Tuttle et al. (1949) Adults, 22 to
27 years
Breakfast vs. no breakfast Heavy breakfast: 800 kcal, fruit, cereal and cream, egg, one slice bacon, two slices toast, jam, milk, and coffee Light breakfast: 400 kcal, fruit, one slice toast. butter, milk, coffee
Coffee only
No breakfast
Simple reaction time 
Choice reaction time
Reaction times greater for no breakfast conditions
Tuttle et al. (1950) Adults. 21 to
28 years
Breakfast vs. no breakfast Breakfast: 749 kcal, two slices white toast, butter, jelly, cereal, whole milk, sugar. fruit
No breakfast
Choice reaction time No breakfast period slower
Smith (1998) Elderly, 60 to 79 years Normal breakfast habits (1) Breakfast cereal everyday
(2) Breakfast everyday but not always cereal
(3) Irregular breakfast eaters
National adult reading test Group 1 scored higher than group 3
Tuttle et al. (1952) Elderly, 60 to
83 years
Breakfast vs. no breakfast Bacon. egg, milk, toast, and fruit: 750 kcal, 25 g protein, 37 g fat, 80 g carbohydrate
Cereal, milk, toast, fruit: 750 kcal, 25 g protein, 28 g fat. 100 g carbohydrate
No breakfast
Choice reaction time No effect of breakfast
Tuttle et al. (1953) Elderly, 60 to
84 years
Breakfast vs. no breakfast Bacon. egg. milk, toast, and fruit: 744 kcal, 25 g protein, 37 g fat, 78 g carbohydrate
Cereal, milk. toast, and fruit: 750 kcal, 25 g protein. 28 g fat. 100 g carbohydrate
Fruit. cereal, cream. sugar. white bread. butter, whole milk, eggs. and bacon: 998 kcal, 40g protein. 48 g fat. 105 g carbohydrate
Choice reaction time Slower reaction times following the heavier breakfast than the two basic breakfasts
Politt et al. (1996) Children, Grades 4 and 5 Breakfast vs. no breakfast for at-risk and no-risk children 80 g Small cake
50 g Almilac (similar to milk) Or no breakfast
Number discrimination Peabody picture vocabulary test
Raven progressive matrices Reaction time
Stimulus discrimination Sternberg memory search
No effect

No effect
No effect
No effect
 

RT of no-risk kids slower with breakfast RT slower without breakfast for
at-risk kids
 

Simeon and Grantham-McGregor (1989) Children, 9 to 10.5 years Breakfast vs. no breakfast for stunted nonstunted, and previously severely malnourished Nutribun, milk, cheese
590 kcal, 29 g protein, 12 g fat, 91 g carbohydrate 
Or tea sweetened with aspartame
Arithmetic
Digit span
Coding
Fluency
Listening comprehension MFFT
HCI
Groups 1 and 3 had lower scores in fluency and coding without breakfast Group 2 had higher arithmetic score with no breakfast
Wasted children performed worse on backwards digit span and MFFT without breakfast
Normal kids performed better on MFFT without breakfast
Vaisman et al. (1996) Children, 11 to 13 years School breakfast vs. home breakfast vs. n breakfast; time of breakfast 30 g Sugared corn flakes and 200 ml of 3% fat milk Rey auditory verbal learning test
Logical memory
Benton visual retention test
Children who ate school breakfast performed better on memory and learning tasks than children who did not eat breakfast or ate at home
Benton and Parker (1998),
Study 2
Adults  Breakfast vs. no breakfast; with or without glucose drink (1) Normal breakfast
(2) Normal breakfast with 50 g glucose drink
(3) No breakfast
(4) No breakfast and 50 g glucose drink
Word list
Wechsler story
Abstract reasoning
Group 4 recalled more than 3
Group 1 recalled more than 3 Breakfast better than none -- drink did not influence
No effect
Benton and Sargent (1992) Adults Breakfast vs. no breakfast Nestle Build Up
1370 kJ energy, 18.5 g protein, 37.7 g carbohydrate, 12.2 fat
Spatial memory Word list Time to complete both tasks shorter in the breakfast group
No difference in number of errors for either task
Smith et al. (1994), Study 1 Adults Breakfast vs. no breakfast and caffeine vs. no caffeine Cooked breakfast: two eggs, two pieces bacon, one slice whole-wheat toast, 10 g margarine
Cereal/toast breakfast: <25g corn flakes, 150 ml semiskimmed milk, one slice whole-wheat toast, 10 g margarine
No breakfast
Simple reaction time 
Five-choice serial response task
Repeated digits vigilance task
No effect of breakfast
Caffeine improved performance
No effect of breakfast
No effect of breakfast
Caffeine improved performance

 
Breakfast intake is not consistently associated with improvements in cognitive performance.  Differences in the quantity and quality of foods consumed at breakfast may account, in part, for these mixed results.

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