Proper nutrition is important for many different reasons, including reducing risk of disease, improving your ability to fight off illnesses, and improving your overall well-being.  In today’s society, fitness and healthy living is becoming more prominent, as there are many ways to stay healthy and many benefits associated with being healthy.  I am researching to see if proper nutrition has an effect on academic performance in college students.  I am working on this topic of nutrition and academics because I want to find out if eating a well-balanced diet increases academic performance in order to help my reader better understand the importance of nutrition.  College students is my focus group because I am a college student and I understand how many college students may have some barriers regarding access to healthy foods.  Throughout my research, I will analyze what nutrients benefit academic performance and the effect of food insecurity on academics.

The first step for my research was to determine if proper nutrition benefits academic performance in college students.  I quickly learned that proper nutrition does have a positive impact.  My next goal was to determine what specific nutrients have this positive effect.  In 2013, a study3 evaluating college students in North Tripura suggested that proper nutrition does have a positive effect on academic performance. Investigators randomly selected 100 students attending Government Degree College of North Tripura.  They then measured each student’s BMI and conducted a survey accessing each student’s intake of energy and macronutrients over a period of seven days.  They then determined each student’s academic performance based on test scores received from a college-given examination.  These results showed that all nutrients, except for fats, are positively correlated with academic excellence.  Researchers determined that of all nutrients, Vitamin C has the strongest correlation with academic achievement, followed by Vitamin A Riboflavin and Thiamine.  Foods rich in Vitamin C are broccoli, kiwi, cantaloupe, orange juice, and many more fruits and vegetables.  Foods rich in Vitamin A are also fruits and vegetables, including carrots, lettuce, and sweet potato.  These results conclude that Vitamins C and A benefit test scores, which indicates that proper nutrition does affect academic performance.

In another study, Effects of Food Snacks on Cognitive Performance in Male College Students5researchers compared test results between students who had just eaten a calorie, protein-rich snack versus students who had just eaten a processed snack lacking nutrients.  Investigators accessed students’ academic performance by conducting four different cognitive tests.  These tests assessed arithmetic reasoning, digit span recall, reading, and attention and compared results.  Researchers completed two different experiments to determine their results.  In both experiments, subjects who consumed the protein-rich yogurt did significantly better on the digit span recall test compared to students who consumed the caffeine-free diet soda.  They also responded significantly quicker in the attention task.  In Experiment 2, subjects who had eaten the yogurt also solved many more arithmetic problems and, in less time, than subjects who had consumed the soda.  This study’s results correlate with the previous study’s results, indicating that macronutrients and micronutrients, specifically protein in this study, have a positive effect on academic performance.

At college campuses across the United States, food insecurity is very prominent, as college students have difficulty accessing and affording healthy, natural foods.  These barriers can be due to expenses, but also inability to cook healthy meals due to living arrangements or lack of knowledge.  Prior to my research, I knew that food insecurity has many negative health consequences, but I was unsure as to whether or not it played a role in academic performance.  According to a 2017 study2, food insecurity among freshman college students correlates with poor sleep quality, higher levels of stress, and an overall lower GPA than college students who are food-secure.  Researchers determined these results by studying freshman students at eight different college campuses across the United States.  They had each student complete the US Adult Food Security Survey to determine what students are considered food-insecure.  Results showed that students who are food-insecure have an overall lower GPA than students who are food-secure.  Subjects also completed independent-samples tests to test stress levels and sleep quality.  Subjects who are food-insecure had higher stress levels and lower sleep quality than food-secure students, which can also relate to lower academic performance.  Another study4 done in 2019 determined very similar results.  This study also utilized the US Adult Food Security Survey but was done at 10 different public universities.  After determining which subjects are considered food-insecure, investigators used the academic progress scale to determine academic achievement for the students.  These results concluded that food-insecure students were more likely to have poor academic performance, as well as exhibit coping behaviors, which can also negatively affect academics.

Throughout my research, I have found many reliable sources that prove that eating a well-balanced diet benefits academic performance among college students.  Although these sources are very reliable and conclusive, future experiments could benefit by reviewing these studies and learning from past methods.  According to the essay, Associations Between Dietary Intake and Academic Achievement in College Students: A Systematic Review1authors agree with the results of past studies, but future studies should consider the use of validated dietary assessment methods, comprehensive measures of overall diet, and use standardized assessment and reporting of academic outcomes.  I agree with the authors’ conclusion in this review, as this topic can be studied and reported in a variety of different ways, which can determine slightly different results.  Overall, my research has helped me determine that proper nutrition does in fact have a positive impact on academic performance.  I have determined this by reviewing studies that prove that specific macronutrients and micronutrients in the diets of college students benefit academic excellence.  I have also reviewed studies that discuss and prove how food insecurity among college students has a negative impact on academic performance and other factors.  This research is very important to me because lack of nutrition and food security is prevalent for many college students and can truly decrease GPA and overall performance.  In my opinion, this is an extreme disadvantage for many students.  I hope that in the future, more research is done on this topic and universities and college students make a stronger effort to make a change.

Bibliography

Burrows, Tracy L, et al. “Associations between Dietary Intake and Academic Achievement in College Students: A Systematic Review.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 25 Sept. 2017, www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/5/4/60.

Elzein, Aseel, et al. “Prevalence of Food Insecurity and Its Association with Health and Academic Outcomes among College Freshmen.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 11 Jan. 2017, academic.oup.com/advances/article/8/1/4/4568361.

Ghosh, Santanu, et al. “Academic Performance and Nutritional Status – A Case Study on College Students in North Tripura.” IOSR Journal of Research & Method in Education, 2013, pdfs.semanticscholar.org/5084/d56d5740989659af0b1d660873afd9b89834.pdf.

Hagedorn, Rebecca L, et al. “Expenditure, Coping, and Academic Behaviors among Food-Insecure College Students at 10 Higher Education Institutes in the Appalachian and Southeastern Regions.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 24 Apr. 2019, academic.oup.com/cdn/article/3/6/nzz058/5479243.

Kanarek, Robin B., and David Swinney. “Effects of Food Snacks on Cognitive Performance in Male College Students.” Appetite, Academic Press, 27 Jan. 2005, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0195666390900519.

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