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Healthy diet boosts children’s reading skills as group work harms memory


Primary school student reading in the class

Primary school student reading in the class

A healthy diet is linked to better reading skills in the first three school years, shows a recent study from Finland.

The study titled “Diet quality and academic achievement: a prospective study among primary school children,” was published in the European Journal of Nutrition.

The study constitutes part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland and the First Steps Study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä.

The study involved 161 children aged six to eight years old, and followed up on them from the first grade to the third grade in school. The quality of their diet was analysed using food diaries, and their academic skills with the help of standardised tests. The closer the diet followed the Baltic Sea Diet and Finnish nutrition recommendations – that is high in vegetables, fruit and berries, fish, whole grain, and unsaturated fats and low in red meat, sugary products, and saturated fat – the healthier it was considered.

The study showed that 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.

The study also found that the positive associations of diet quality with reading skills in Grades 2 and 3 were independent of reading skills in Grade 1. These results indicate that children with healthier diets improved more in their reading skills from Grade 1 to Grades 2-3 than children with poorer diet quality.

“Another significant observation is that the associations of diet quality with reading skills were also independent of many confounding factors, such as socio-economic status, physical activity, body adiposity, and physical fitness,” says Researcher Dr. Eero Haapala, from the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyväskylä.

Also, a healthy diet seems to be an important factor in supporting learning and academic performance in children. By making healthy choices every meal, it is possible to promote a healthy diet and enhance diet quality. Parents and schools have an important role in making healthy foods available to children. Furthermore, governments and companies play a key role in promoting the availability and production of healthy foods.

A new study by psychologists from the University of Liverpool and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) reveals that collaborating in a group to remember information is harmful.

The research, conducted by Dr. Craig Thorley, the University’s Department of Psychological Sciences, and Dr. Stéphanie Marion, from UOIT’s Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, statistically analysed 64 earlier collaborative remembering studies and found that groups recall less than their individual members would if working alone.

The same study also found that collaborative remembering boosts later individual learning: people who previously recall in a group remember more than those who do not.

The research provides the first systematic investigation into the costs and benefits of collaborative remembering.

Collaborative remembering is important as it is used in a number of different everyday settings. In the workplace, interview panels jointly recall candidates’ answers before deciding whom to employ. In the courtroom, jurors work together to recall trial evidence prior to reaching a verdict. In schools and universities, students work together to revise course content prior to exams.

The study, published in Psychological Bulletin this week, first compared the recall of collaborative groups to the pooled recall of an equivalent number of individuals. For example, if a collaborative group consisted of four people, their recall was compared to that of four individuals who worked alone but whose recall was combined. Collaborative group recall was consistently lower than pooled individual recall. This effect is known as collaborative inhibition.

The study suggests collaborative inhibition occurs as group members disrupt each other’s retrieval strategies when recalling together.

Dr. Craig Thorley, said: “Collaborative group members develop their own preferred retrieval strategies for recalling information.

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