Girls need a bigger breakfast than boys to make sure they perform as well in school, according to research from the University of Ulster. A study found that while boys did best in performance tests while they were slightly hungry, girls needed to feel fully fed to keep up.
Dr Barbara Stewart, of the Northern Ireland Centre for Diet and Health, said that while the link between breakfast and school performance was well known, the latest research suggested that girls needed a more satisfying first meal of the day than boys.
A total of 56 pupils aged 11 to 13 were studied over six weeks, with one group fed a breakfast of toast and another given toast and baked beans. Researchers found the boys performed better in attention and memory tests when they were a little hungry, while girls did best in the tests when they were not hungry.
As the tests became more complex, participants who ate beans on toast for breakfast also did better than those who had toast alone.
"There have been a number of studies into the relationship between high carbohydrate breakfast and the ability to concentrate, but the results have been equivocal," Dr Stewart said. "A reason for these conflicting findings could be that many studies have investigated attention and memory in relation to breakfast without consideration of mood. Mood and cognition appear to interact and this seems to influence the type of breakfast required for optimal performance.
"The beans breakfast produced better performance among the girls, especially when they were experiencing a negative mood." Dr Stewart said the study also showed that performance was determined by factors such as gender and mood and not just breakfast.
Results of the study, part-funded by Heinz, will be presented at the European Nutrition Conference in Rome this week.Reuse content