effect of skipping breakfast on academic performance

Recently researchers examined the effect of skipping breakfast on academic performance among secondary school students.

Eating breakfast has a positive effect on the learning process in children. However, there is no clear data so far on how habitual school-day breakfast consumption influences academic performance. In a new study conducted by the University of Leeds in the UK, researchers assessed the relationship between eating breakfast and school grades. The results were published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

For the study, 294 teenagers studying at West Yorkshire’s schools and colleges from 16 to 18 years old completed a survey. They reported their breakfast intake during one week and General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) grades, along with other important factors such as socio-economic status, ethnicity, age, sex, and BMI.

The surveys revealed that 53% of students ate breakfast frequently (4-5 school days), whereas around a third (28.6%) rarely or never consumed any meal before 10 am, and 18.4% reported eating breakfast occasionally (2-3 school days).

In terms of academic performance, GCSE grades for each subject were recalculated to point scores (such as A*=58, A=52, B=46 etc.) and summed to create a total score for the measurement of overall performance.

Adolescents who frequently skipped breakfast on school days had lower GCSE grades than those who consumed breakfast. Eating breakfast less than once on a school day was associated with a decrease in score – on average 10.25 points compared to those with more frequent breakfast intake. This was a difference of nearly two grades.

Performance for each individual GCSE was also observed on average 1.20 points lower in students who ate breakfast less frequently than those who ate it more frequently, after considering other factors.

This study demonstrated the negative effects of skipping breakfast on academic performance for secondary school students. The researchers suggest that poor nutrition can lead to lower academic performance, and their findings will help to expend the free school breakfast program to improve children’s educational achievements.

“This study is a valuable insight, reinforcing the importance of breakfast in boosting pupils’ academic attainment and removing barriers to learning. Education is crucial to a child’s future life success and escaping poverty, therefore ensuring every child has access to a healthy start to the day must be a priority.” said Alex Cunningham, CEO of Charity Magic Breakfast funded by the Department of education.


Written by Anna Otvodenko



Adolphus, K., Lawton, C. and Dye, L. (2019). Associations Between Habitual School-Day Breakfast Consumption Frequency and Academic Performance in British Adolescents. Frontiers in Public Health, 7.

EurekAlert!. (2019). Skipping breakfast linked to lower GCSE grades. [online] Available at: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-11/uol-sbl111819.php [Accessed 22 Nov. 2019].

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