Girls need a more satisfying breakfast than boys if they are to perform at their best in the classroom, according to a new report.
A beans breakfast produced better performance among girls
Research conducted by a health expert at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, showed that girls performed better on memory tests when they had eaten well.
However, boys performed better on the same tests when they were a little hungry
Dr Barbara Stewart, from the Northern Ireland Centre for Diet and Health at UU, conducted tests where pupils were fed a breakfast of toast, or beans and toast, and then tested on cognitive ability.
"The link between having breakfast and performance at school or work is well established, but this research suggests girls need a more satisfying breakfast than boys to perform at their best," Dr Stewart said.
The results will be presented at the 9th European Nutrition Conference in Rome this week.
Dr Stewart also found that when cognitive tasks were made more complicated, participants eating beans on toast for breakfast performed better than their counterparts eating toast only.
"Both types of breakfast improved the time taken to select the correct answer on tests of attention and memory but as the tests became more difficult, respondents who had eaten the beans on toast performed better," she said.
"There have been a number of studies into the relationship between high carbohydrate breakfast and the ability to concentrate, but the results have been equivocal," Dr Stewart said.
"A reason for these conflicting findings could be that many studies have investigated attention and memory in relation to breakfast without consideration of mood.
"Mood and cognition appear to interact and this seems to influence the type of breakfast required for optimal performance.
"The beans breakfast produced better performance among the girls, especially when they were experiencing a negative mood."
Dr Stewart said that the study showed cognitive performance might be determined by a combination of factors, not simply the type of breakfast consumed.
"We believe that although breakfast type is an important determining factor, it must be considered in relation to gender, mood and satiety," she said.
"Due to the interaction between cognition and mood a satisfying, high carbohydrate/protein breakfast, such as beans on toast, helps the girls perform at their best while boys performs better when their breakfast leaves then feeling a little hungry."