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Importance of mental performance in parental choice of food for children aged 4–10 years: a study in four European countries

  • Heather Gage (a1), Bernadette Egan (a1), Peter Williams (a2), Brigitte Brands (a3), Eszter Györei (a4), Juan-Carlos López-Robles (a5), Cristina Campoy (a5), Tamas Decsi (a4), Berthold Koletzko (a3) and Monique Raats (a1)...



Typically, attention focuses on how nutrition affects physical health. The present study investigated the importance that parents attach to the impact of diet on mental performance when choosing food for their child.




Four European countries.


Parents of children aged 4–10 years (n 1574): England (n 397), Germany (n 389), Hungary (n 398) and Spain (n 390).


Most parents (80–85 %) considered the effect of food on four elements of mental performance (child’s ability to learn, attention, behaviour, mood) to be moderately, very, extremely (v. slightly, not at all) important in food choices; over 90 % considered healthiness of food and making food appealing to their child important; 79·8 % cost; 76·8 % convenience. Belief that food affects mental performance was 57·4 % (ability to learn), 60·5 % (attention); less than 40 % of parents agreed they were aware which foods had an effect. Parents with lower general interest in healthy eating were less likely to consider the effect of food on mental performance elements as important. Respondents from Germany were more likely to rate mental performance as important (except behaviour); those in Hungary less likely. The most important influence on parents’ decisions about feeding their child was their own experience, except Spain, where family/friends/health professionals were more important.


Nutrition affects brain development and cognitive functioning. Low prioritisation of the effect of food on mental performance indicates potential for educating parents.


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