Did you know a study indicated that if everyone became a vegetarian we could solve world hunger? Kind of interesting, huh?
“Currently, 36% of the calories produced by the world’s crops are being used for animal feed, and only 12% of those feed calories ultimately contribute to the human diet (as meat and other animal products).”
And, if Elle Woods and Bruiser Woods can do it, can’t every one?
OK, calm yourselves meat-lovers, I’m not trying to take away your turkey right before Thanksgiving and the thought of Tofurky is unappealing even to me. (Technically, I’m a pescatarian working towards vegetarianism. I get it, it’s hard to change your food habits even when super motivated to do so!)
However, I did find this little tidbit of scientific information compelling. It made me me think about food, hunger, books and reading. Yes, that’s a weird place for one’s mind to wander on this topic. But, I am weird and I like books. (I think that should be my new mantra.)
I wondered if anyone has ever studied the relationship between food and reading. You may think: of course not, don’t be silly, who would study that? Well, as I wrote in another blog, people have studied the relationship between sarcasm and intelligence. (Spoiler: sarcasm = higher intelligence.) So why not the relationship between books/reading and food?
Therefore, I explored the world of food + reading research (yes it exists). Here are some interesting things I discovered. (Caveat: I am a writer of YA fantasy fiction [see The Travelers], but I am also an editor in the medical field and realize correlation is not causation. However, it is interesting to bring these sorts of things up and look into them further!)
Food and nutrition can impact academic performance, including reading.
- Several studies have found a relationship between poor eating habits and lower reading test scores, even after controlling for other factors.
- A healthy diet is linked to better reading skills in the first three school years
- Study: Children whose diet was rich in vegetables, fruit, berries, whole grain, fish and unsaturated fats, and low in sugary products, did better in tests measuring reading skills than their peers with a poorer diet quality…independent of many confounding factors, such as socio-economic status, physical activity, body adiposity, and physical fitness (Haapala. European Journal of Nutrition. 2016. DOI: 10.1007/s00394-016-1270-5)
- Children who eat more fast food show less academic improvement, including in reading
- A study assessed academic growth of 8,544 children in reading, math, and science between 5th and 8th grades .
- Fast food consumption during fifth grade predicted lower levels of academic achievement in all 3 subjects in eighth grade, even when fifth grade academic scores and numerous potential confounding variables, including socioeconomic indicators, physical activity, and TV watching, were controlled for in the models. (Purtell. Clinical Pediatrics. 2015. DOI: 10.1177/0009922814561742)
“Junk food and fast food negatively affect the brain’s synapses, said Gómez-Pinilla, who eats fast food less often since conducting this research. Brain synapses and several molecules related to learning and memory are adversely affected by unhealthy diets, he said.” – UCLA Newsroom
Eating Omega-3 fatty acids may help improve reading and spelling.
- Omega-3s acids may enhance learning and memory. Children who had increased amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids performed better in school, in reading, in spelling and had fewer behavioral problems. (Gómez-Pinilla. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2008)
Food insecurity is associated with poor reading performance.
- Study US of ∼21,000 nationally representative children entering kindergarten and followed through 3rd grade found the following (Jyoti. Journal of Nutrition. 2005)
- Food insecurity at kindergarten predicted impaired academic performance in reading and mathematics for girls and boy.
- Children from households that became food insecure exhibited poorer reading performance, and this was especially significant among girls.
Hopefully that didn’t spoil your thoughts of Thanksgiving. But maybe it may make you take a second helping of that steamed broccoli rather than turkey and gravy! (Maybe? Maybe?) 🙂
Here are some references for additional information if you’re interested!