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A better diet may improve school performance

There are many factors that can influence school performance during adolescence, and these factors may interact in complex ways. A recent study in Taiwan examined the relationship between diet quality, emotional disturbance, and school performance in adolescents.

Emotional disturbance, or mental health, has been associated with poor school outcomes in adolescents.  However, the impact of mental health on school performance varies among adolescents. Researchers in Taiwan have conducted a study to determine what factors influence the impact of mental health on school performance. The researchers hypothesized that dietary quality and parent-child relationships would affect the association between mental health and school performance.

This study included 1,371 adolescents between 11 and 17 years of age from schools throughout Taiwan. The Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan (NHST) includes questionnaires administered through interviews with the children and their parents. The questionnaires gathered data on school performance, mental health, socio-economic variables, lifestyle, and other potentially relevant variables. The results were recently published in the Nutrition Journal.

The results showed some complex interactions between school performance and several other variables. The children with the lowest performance in school were more likely to have parents with less education and lower incomes than the children with the highest school performance. Diet quality was also linked to school performance, with better overall diet quality linked to higher scores. Emotional disturbance was significantly linked to poor diet quality in both girls and boys.

The results showed that poor diet was associated with the link between mental health and school performance, particularly in girls. This study found that dietary quality affected school performance directly and also indirectly through its impact on emotional disturbance.  Other modulators of this association included screen time, reading time, parental income, and smoking.

This study has important implications for public health policy, as interventions aimed to increase the dietary quality of families with adolescent children may help to improve their emotional health, and subsequently also their school performance. This study provides important insight into the relationship between school performance, dietary quality, and emotional health.

Written by Lisa Borsellino, B.Sc.

Reference: Huang, Lin-Yuan, et al. “Dietary quality linkage to overall competence at school and emotional disturbance in representative Taiwanese young adolescents: dependence on gender, parental characteristics and personal behaviors.” Nutrition Journal 17.1 (2018): 29.



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