The Effect of Breakfast and Snack Consumption on Children's Cognitive Performance

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The current thesis aimed to investigate the effects of breakfast and snack on
children‟s cognitive performance. Chapter 1 presents an overview of cognitive
development followed by a review of previous literature investigating the effects
of breakfast and snack consumption on cognitive performance. An overview of
glycaemic index (GI) is then provided and linked to breakfast and snack intake.
Chapter 2 set out to investigate the effects of a mid-morning snack on attention
and memory in children. The chapter also examines whether there were any
systematic variations in cognitive performance following a mid-morning snack as
a consequence of the calorific content of breakfast. Children were tested on a
battery of cognitive tests 90 minutes following the consumption of an apple,
banana or no snack. The results did not reveal any significant effects on any
measures. Chapter 3 was the same as Chapter 2, except that attention and
memory were assessed at 30 and 60 minutes post-snack rather than 90
minutes and prior breakfast intake (kcal) was changed to a covariate. The
results showed a significant decline in performance from 30 to 60 minutes postsnack on a visuospatial task. However, there were no other significant results.
The main aim of Chapters 4, 5 and 6 was to investigate the effects of the
glycaemic index (GI) of two breakfast cereals on children‟s attention and
memory. Chapter 4 assessed attention and memory in children at 0, 60 and 120
minutes after the consumption of a high GI breakfast (CoCo Pops), a low GI
breakfast (All Bran) or no breakfast. The results revealed a main effect of
assessment time and a time x breakfast interaction on Choice Reaction Time
although post hocs revealed no further significant differences. Chapter 5 set out
to replicate Chapter 4 but adopted a repeated measures design and also
examined if there were any differential effects of breakfast depending on the
children‟s age. The results revealed some contradictory effects of both
assessment time and of age. No other effects were found. Chapter 6 was a
replication of Chapter 5 with the exception of the test battery. The test battery
(CDR) employed in Chapter 6 was different from the battery in the previous
chapters (CAMBA) and was considered to be more cognitively demanding and
hence more sensitive to the effects of breakfast intake. The result showed some
conflicting effects of assessment time and age. The results also showed a
significant main effect of breakfast on Secondary Memory with better
performance after the low GI cereal and an interaction between breakfast and
time on Accuracy of Attention with better performance after the low GI at 180
minutes post-breakfast.
In summary, snack was not found to have any significant effects on
performance. Breakfast had an effect on two measures in Chapter 6 but other
than that there were no effects of breakfast. There were also some mixed
findings of assessment time and age.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Northumbria University
  • Defeyter, Margaret Anne, Supervisor, External person
  • Scholey, Andrew B., Supervisor, External person
  • Kennedy, David O., Supervisor, External person
Award date20 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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