Effects of Diet on Learning and
“YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT,”
- fats and oils
- sugars and starch
- made of amino acids
• NUCLEIC ACIDS
- made of nucleotides
What Do We Know?
• High Fat and Cholesterol = Heart Damage
• Sugar Imbalance = Pancreas Malfunction
• Low Folic Acid = Embryo Deformations
• Low Calcium = Bone Loss
• Alcohol = Liver Damage
• Smoking = Lung Damage
• ??? = Brain Inefficiency and Memory Loss
Omega-6 Fat vs. Omega-3 Fat
Omega - 6 Fats Omega - 3 Fats
• in oils and dressing • in fish and seafood
• in pork and beef • in nuts and legumes
• in processed foods • in green leafy plants
• in fried foods • in olive oils
BAD FOR BRAIN GOOD FOR BRAIN
• cause neurons to • cause neurons to
become more rigid become more fluid
RATIOS OF OMEGA-6 FATS to
• Optimal ratio is 1:1
• Brain Impairment occurs at ratios over 4:1
• Average American diet is over 20:1
• Asians have lowest ratios
• Hispanics and African Americans have
Sodium vs. Potassium
SODIUM (Na) POTASSIUM (K)
• in processed foods • in fruits and veggies
• in table salt • in beans, nuts, milk
• causes brain tissue and • In some fish
blood vessels to become • counteracts high sodium
more permeable levels
• high levels decreases • low ratios of sodium to
brain performance potassium increase brain
What Does The Research Say?
• Benton (1991) - 6 year olds given
multivitamins for 6-8 weeks increased and
average of 7.6 points on intelligence tests
• Murphy (1998) - School aged children who
ate breakfast performed much higher in
math than those who skipped breakfast (also
had less behavior problems and absences)
What Does The Research Say?
• Greenwood (1996) - Rats fed varying diets
high in saturated fats showed cognitive
impairment in direct correlation to the
amount of fats consumed
• Connor (1996) - Rhesus monkeys fed low
amount of Omega-3 fats with high Omega-6
fats showed cognitive damage and vision
How Can Students Maximize Their Brain
Power Through Diet?
• Eat Breakfast
• Consume healthier snacks (fruit not chips)
• Decrease Intake of Saturated Fats
• Decrease Omega-6 fat to Omega-3 fat Ratio
• Decrease Sodium to Potassium Ratio
• Take a Multivitamin (even Fish Oil)
If “You Are What You Eat,”
Then What Are You?
• Benton, D. (1991). Vitamin and mineral supplements improve intelligence scores and
concentration of six-year old children. Personality and Individual Differences, 12 (11),
• Benton, D. (1990). Vitamin/mineral supplementation and intelligence. Lancet,
• Benton, D. (1988). Effect of vitamin and mineral supplementation on intelligence of a
sample of school children. Lancet, 1(8578), 140-143.
• Eaton, S.B. (1996). An evolutionary perspective enhances understanding of human
nutritional requirements. Journal of Nutrition, 126, 1732-1740.
• Greenwood, C. E. (1996). Cognitive impairment in rats fed high fat diets: A specific
effect of saturated fatty acid intake. Behavioral Neuroscience, 110(3),451-459.
• Hibbeln, J. R. (1998). Fish consumption and major depression. Lancet, 351, 1213.
• Murphy, J. M. (1998). The relationship of school breakfast to psychosocial and
academic functioning. Pediatrics Adolescent Medicine, 152(9), 899-907.
• Schoenthaler, S.J. (1991). Controlled trial of vitamin-mineral supplementation on
intelligence and brain function. Personality and Individual Differences, 12(4), 343-350.
• Schoenthaler, S.J. (1991). Controlled trial of vitamin-mineral supplementation: effects
on intelligence and performance. Personality and Individual Differences, 12(4), 351-
• Stephens, L.J. (1995). Essential fatty acid metabolism in boys with attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 62, 761-768.
• Wainwright, P.E. (1998). A saturated fat diet during development alters dendritic
growth in mouse brain. Nutritional Neuroscience, 1, 49-58.
• Yehuda, S. (1998). Fatty acids and brain peptides. Peptides, 19(2), 407-419.
• Yudkin, John. (1991). Intelligence of children and vitamin-mineral supplements: the
DRF study. Discussion, conclusion and consequences. Personality and Individual
Differences, 12(4), 363-365.