Given that early childhood is a formative developmental period, this study addresses important knowledge gaps by systematically reviewing the current literature on the relationship between physical activity and dietary patterns with cognitive outcomes in early childhood (6 months to 5 years). For physical activity, twelve studies (5 cross-sectional, 3 longitudinal, and 4 experimental) were included. Eleven studies reported evidence suggesting that physical activity or gross motor skills are related to cognition or learning. Both acute bouts and longer term exposures showed benefit. For diet, eight studies were included consisting of secondary analyses from longitudinal cohort studies. A healthier dietary pattern was associated with better cognitive outcomes in all studies, although some of the reported associations were weak and the measures used varied across the studies. The review finds preliminary evidence that physical activity and healthy diets in early childhood are associated with better cognitive outcomes in young children. However, there is a need for more rigorous research in this area given the limited amount of literature and the variability in types and quality of measures used. As early learning has become an area of priority, research on children’s diet and activity behaviors should include cognitive and developmental outcomes.
The Relationship Between Physical Activity and Diet and Young Children’s Cognitive Development: A Systematic Review
This research brief summarizes findings from an exploratory study of a diverse sample of juvenile justice residential facilities in North Carolina conducted by RTI International. The study examined food service operations, agency and facility level policies and practices pertaining to nutrition, participation in federal school nutrition programs, and additional food … More
Researchers and advocates have drawn attention to the public health consequences of mass incarceration and its contribution to racial health disparities in the United States. The conditions within juvenile justice facilities may influence long-term health outcomes for African-American, Latino, and Native American populations, who are more likely than white youth … More
Farm-to-School Education Grants Reach Low-Income Children and Encourage Them to Learn About Fruits and Vegetables
For children from low-income families, school meals are a significant portion of daily caloric intake and hence an opportunity to address food insecurity. Many states have pursued legislation to institutionalize programs such as farm to school that aim to improve the quality of school meals and acceptance of healthy foods … More