Schoenthaler 1986: The Impact of a Low Food Additive and Sucrose Diet on Academic Performance in 803 New York City Public Schools

International Journal for Biosocial Research, 1986, 8(2); 185-195.

Over 4 years, 803 New York City schools changed their breakfast and lunch programs.  They lowered sucrose, synthetic food color/flavors, and two preservatives (BHA and BHT). For each change, there was an improvement (and no improvement for the year without any change) until they had increased 15.7% in mean academic percentile ranking above the rest of the nation’s schools who used the same standardized tests.

Table 1: National Rankings of 803 New York City Public Schools Before and After Diet Changes

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Prior beginning this change, the standard deviation of the annual change in national percentile ratings had been less than 1% — except for the year 1977-78 in which they tried lowering fat levels which also removed many processed foods from their menu.

Before this change, the more students in a school who ate the school breakfast and lunch, the worse that school’s scores;  after the changes, the more students who ate at school, the better that school’s scores.

It should be remembered that the above chart is an average of over a MILLION children.  This is a very big study.  Not all the children improved in the same way;  in fact, before the diet change, 12.4% of the students were 2 or more years behind their grade level, but by the end of the study, only 4.9% of students were 2 years below grade level.

Table 3: Mean Gain in School Achievement Rank and Percent of Student Involvement for Four Years After Diet Revisions.

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