Recent studies show that Malnutrition may be impacting kids in more ways than initially thought. It has been discovered that malnourished children are less likely to be literate and more likely to struggle with mathematics than children who are not malnourished.

What it malnutrition?

It should come as no shock to hear that malnutrition has its consequences. If one is to look up the definition of malnutrition in the dictionary, they would be met with a response similar to: a lack of proper nutrition caused by not having enough to eat, not eating enough of the right things, or being unable to use the foods that one does eat.

While the implications of malnutrition such as low body weight, muscle wasting, and poor bone density may seem like common sense, there are serious cognitive implications of malnutrition as well.

The global impact of malnutrition on academic performance

A March 2017 study published in BMC Nutrition followed 630 Ethiopian students in order to determine the correlation between malnutrition and Academic Performance. Researchers used test scores, general academic performance, parent involvement in education processes, weight for height indexes, and weight for age indexes in order to analyze the student's nutritional standing as well as their performance in the classroom. They found that stunted growth and low body weight, both indicators of malnutrition, were associated with lower academic performance, while wasting had no direct correlation.

This research is not isolated. Save the Children, a nonprofit organization in the UK found that malnourished children across the world have higher rates of illiteracy. Malnourished children are 20% less likely to be literate than children who receive proper nutrition. Additionally, malnourished children are 7% more likely to make mistakes doing basic arithmetic.

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Malnutrition in the US education system

Malnutrition is a very real obstacle to receiving a proper education for children in the United States. 1/3 of children in the United States are considered overweight or obese, with the numbers still climbing. However, body weight alone is not enough to determine one's nutritional status and many people who are overweight are still malnourished.

90% of children in the US are not consuming the recommended amount of vegetables, and 75% are not eating enough fruit. Additionally, 90% are consuming too much sugar and solid fats, dietary choices that are known to increase someone's risk of chronic illnesses. Although obesity in the United States is certainly an epidemic, many children are still severely malnourished. The Western diet may just be the culprit that is holding US students back from competing academically with other Western nations.

In addition to the correlation that low fruit and vegetable intake has on academic performance when combined with high sugar and fat consumption, there have also been links found between eating breakfast and academic success.

Eating breakfast can make a huge impact on performance in the classroom, meaning that Mom may have been up to something when she was nagging you to eat breakfast in the morning. Eating breakfast just five times per week for male students and as few as twice a week for female students was associated with increased academic success.