The effects of eating habits on a student's achievement

Written by cassandra cipoletti
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The effects of eating habits on a student's achievement
(Ableimages/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The importance of good nutrition in student achievement extends beyond standardised test scores and a student's ability to concentrate in history class. Good nutrition and physical activity are vital to an individual's long-term success in society. Nevertheless, an individual is not born with an education or a healthy lifestyle; therefore, children must be conditioned on good health practices. Reinforcing good nutritional values and physical activity in the early childhood years can dramatically improve a person's health, education, and health-risk behaviour outcomes.

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In 2002 studies suggested that without intervention, childhood obesity could be as high as 50 per cent by 2025 (International Obesity Task Force) Childhood obesity can lead to Diabetes Type II, joint problems, asthma, and a series of other health complications. In terms of academic performance, obese students exhibit lower achievement scores, higher absenteeism and are required to repeat classes due to low performance. Additionally, obesity hinders social interaction, possibly leading to mental health instability. Obesity is an epidemic and can negatively affect a child's educational experience and lifelong goals.

Poor Nutrition

In the 2009 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), only 22.3 per cent of high school students reported eating fruits and vegetables five or more times a day during the previous seven days. This statistic is one of many representing the trend of negative eating habits leading to vitamin deficiency and weight problems among youth. In the classroom context, diet imbalances are linked to misbehavior and poor academic achievement. One of the more recognised vitamin deficiencies, anaemia (iron deficiency), decreases a child's ability to focus and causes fatigue as well as irritability. In turn, anaemic children tend to have lower vocabulary and reading scores.

Long-Term Unhealthy Lifestyle: High School

Nutrition alters academic performance during formative years and can impair a child's functioning and achievement. Unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical activity are known as contributing factors in many behavioural issues, which, if left untreated, have the potential to result in serious complications. A 2009 nationwide survey indicated that a large number of high school students use unhealthy methods to lose or maintain weight. The survey found that during the 30 days before the survey, 10.6 per cent of students went without eating for 24 hours or more; 4.0 per cent had vomited or taken laxatives in order to lose weight; and 5.0 per cent had taken diet pills, powders or liquids without a doctor's advice (CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey).

Long-Term Unhealthy Lifestyle: University

A separate 2010 UK Student Health Group study concerning the health and well being of university students proposed that the relationship between alcohol binge drinking and poor academic performance observed among university students may operate inversely to that exhibited among high activity levels, self-esteem and good academic performance. Further emphasising the impact of this observation, a 2009 study by Cognitive Neurosciences Research Unit in Belgium found the first direct evidence that short-term binge drinking can generate evident cerebral dysfunction undetectable by behavioural measures alone. In a 2005 nationally representative sample of college and university students in the U.S., alcohol use was rated as one of the top 10 hindrances to students' academic performance (ACHA-NCHA, American College Health Association American College Health Association National College Health Assessment). In the long run, unhealthy behaviour interferes with a student's education and an individual's quality of life. Perhaps the most startling fact is that if no action is taken toward improving diet and physical activity, the life expectancy of some children born after the year 2000 will be only half the life expectancy of their parents.

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