Researchers in a Spanish study found that adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) improved the scholastic performance of teenagers. The authors attributed the benefit to the eating plan’s ability to promote better sleep quality.
Education and public health professionals should work together to achieve both improved health status and academic performance in adolescents.
“Academic performance during adolescence has a significant influence on future health and work conditions,” said the authors at Jaume I University in Castellón, Spain.
Studies link the MedDiet to a host of health benefits. The eating plan’s richly nutritious foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts and olive oil, appear to provide the body with what it needs to function optimally. The diet includes dairy products and poultry in moderation but restricts red meat consumption to no more than a few times a month.
According to the researchers, earlier investigations have shown that teens have better academic and cognitive success when they consume fruits, vegetables and fish, as well as limit their consumption of salty snacks and sodas.
“Despite this growing evidence of the influence of diet on cognition, the effect of adherence to the Mediterranean diet on academic performance in adolescents has been poorly investigated,” the authors added.
In the study published in Acta Paediatrica, 269 teenagers of an average age of 13.9 were recruited from 38 secondary schools and sports clubs in Castellon, Spain. Adherence to the MedDiet was evaluated by the KIDMED questionnaire. Sleep duration was measured by a wrist-worn accelerometer, while sleep quality was assessed with the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index test. Final grades and a validated test served as determinants of school performance.
Analysis of the data showed closer adherence to the MedDiet was linked to better scores in core subjects, language and verbal ability, as well as higher grade point averages. Sleep quality played an important role in the connection between the MedDiet and the scholastic benefits.
“Education and public health professionals should work together to achieve both improved health status and academic performance in adolescents,” the authors concluded.
What specific aspects of the MedDiet might underlie the scholastic benefit? Olive Oil Times put the question to Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor Erica Steele of Holistic Family Practice of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“The MedDiet has a positive outcome on brain health and brain development due to its high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered ‘smart fats,’ said Steele.
“These fats supply building material for the brain and offer substantial memory-protective qualities. In a study published in the Neurology Paper, scientists discovered that those with lower blood concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids performed worse on assessments and thinking tests that involved memory and problem-solving. The heart-healthy MedDiet also seems to be good for the brain,” she said.