Study: Breakfast cereal improves mood, but brain performance?

Researchers said links between low GI breakfast cereal and cognitive performance were 'not so straightforward'

Adolescents who consume breakfast cereal in the morning are more alert, content and in some instances show improved cognitive performance, according to Kellogg-funded research.

The study published in the Journal of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience investigated the effect breakfast consumption had on cognitive performance and mood in adolescents.

Kellogg’s All Bran cereal was used in the study on 40 adolescents aged 13-15 years old. The research specifically looked at adolescents from low socioeconomic backgrounds that routinely skip breakfast.

“Overall, it appeared that following breakfast participants felt more alert, satiated, and content,” said the UK researchers from the University of Northumbria and University of Essex.

These findings support previous work that suggested breakfast consumption had a positive effect on mood, they said.

Cognitive function – not so simple… 

While the study clearly showed improved mood and alertness, the findings for cognitive function were not so straightforward, the researchers said.

The adolescents were tested on word recall, choice reaction time tests, a rapid visual information processing task (RVIP), subtraction tests and the Stroop color-word test in which the names of colors appear in contrasting shades.

Overall, most of the tests showed little improvement to cognitive function after cereal consumption, the researchers said. However, notable impact could be seen in the word recall tests – particularly at the harder level.

At an easy level, participants who had consumed breakfast outperformed the breakfast skippers. But during the harder version of the task, findings indicated that those who had consumed breakfast had the ability to recall words over a longer period of time.

“Adolescents in the current study showed superior accuracy, in the high cognitive load task, later in the school morning following breakfast consumption compared to breakfast omission,” the researchers said.

“…These findings support the suggestion that tasks with higher cognitive demands are more sensitive to nutritional manipulations.”

No significant brain boost – because of GI?

The researchers said that the lack of significant impact on cognitive function across many of the tests could be because the research involved a low GI breakfast.

“It is possible that consumption of a low GI breakfast did not result in significantly greater glucose availability which may be required to fuel the brain during tasks of high cognitive demand,” they said.

Overall, the findings therefore warrant further investigation, they added. “In order to address the role of glycaemic index further studies employing adolescents need to be conducted including measurements of biomarkers (for example, blood glucose levels).”


Source: Journal of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00789. November, 2013.
“The effect of breakfast cereal consumption on adolescents’ cognitive performance and mood”
Authors: MA. Defeyter (Northumbria University) and R. Russo (University of Essex)

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