1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Nutrition is a fundamental pillar of human life, health and development across the entire life span. From the earliest stages of fetal development, at birth, through infancy, childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood and old age, proper food and good nutrition are essential for survival, physical growth, mental development, performance and productivity, health and well-being (FAO/WHO, 1992; WHO, 2000). Evidence has shown that physical growth and cognitive development in children are faster during early years of life, and that by the age of four years, 50% of the adult intellectual capacity has been attained and before thirteen years, 92% of adult intellectual capacity is attained (Vernon, 1976).
Evidence has shown that 4% of the total children born in developing countries die of malnutrition before they are five years old (Toriola, 1990); and that the most affected are usually the children of illiterate parents in low socio-economic brackets that have low purchasing power in the economy (Adekunle, 2005). Quite a number of studies have shown that poor feeding and or recurrent infections as a result of poverty leads to stunted growth, substantial brain impairment, low intellectual competence and capacity to learn of children (Kerr & Black, 2000; Ivanovic et al., 2002; Chang et al., 2002; Braveman & Gruskin, 2003; Liu et al., 2003).
Strong evidence exists that poor feeding practices is associated with stunted growth and delayed mental development (Mendez & Adair, 1999); and that there is a relationship between impaired growth status and both poor school performance and intelligence quotient (PAHO, 1998). The relationship between timely and quality dietary intake, brain size and intelligence has been documented (Strupp & Levitsky, 1995; Florey et al., 1995), and that a significant correlation exists between head circumference and intelligence quotient (1Q). This suggest that difference in human brain size could be relevant in explaining the differences in intelligence and academic performance, although genetic and environmental factors like socio-economic, socio-cultural and psychological factors could be direct or indirect co-determinants of both intelligence and school performance (Vernon et al., 2000; Wickett et al., 2000). The head circumference is a physical index of both past nutrition and brain development and a good predictor of later intelligence of a child (Botting et al., 1998), and it is used as the most sensitive anthropometric index of prolonged under nutrition during the infancy, associated with intellectual impairment (Ivanovic, 1996).
Recent studies have demonstrated that nutrition affects students’ thinking skills, behavior, and health, all factors that impact academic performance. Research suggests that diets high in trans and saturated fats can negatively impact learning and memory, nutritional deficiencies early in life can affect the cognitive development of school-aged children, and access to nutrition improves students’ cognition, concentration, and energy levels.
For example, one study found that 5th grade students with less nutritious diets performed worse on a standardized literary assessment (Florence, Asbridge, & Veugelers, 2008). Another study discovered that 5th grade students who ate more fast food fared worse on math and reading scores (Li & O’Connell, 2012). Similarly, a study that analyzed a healthy eating campaign that banned junk food from schools and introduced healthier, freshly prepared school meals found that participating students scored higher on English and science tests than students who did not take part in the campaign (Belot & James, 2009).
Nutrition also indirectly impacts school performance. Poor nutrition can leave students’ susceptible to illness or lead to headaches and stomachaches, resulting in school absences (Brown, Beardslee, & Prothrow-Stith, 2008). Access to nutrition that incorporates protein, carbohydrates, and glucose has been shown to improve students’ cognition, concentration, and energy levels (Bellisle, 2004; Sorhaindo & Feinstein, 2006).
In contrast, nutritional deficiencies (particularly zinc, B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and protein) early in life can affect the cognitive development of school-aged children (Sorhaindo & Feinstein, 2006). Studies also suggest that diets high in trans and saturated fats can negatively impact the brain, influencing learning and memory (Gómez-Pinilla, 2008).
Finally, research has also established a link between nutrition and behavior. Studies have found that access to nutrition, particularly breakfast, can enhance a student’s psychosocial well-being, reduce aggression and school suspensions, and decrease discipline problems (Brown et al., 2008).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Nutrition is the science that deals with the study of food in relation to their effects on the human body. It is also the study of various nutrients in relation to their effects upon the human body.
From the day of birth, nutrition plays an important role in the development and growth of every individual. There is also a saying that “you are what you”. That is, your output (performance) is determines a lot about you. Hence, this research is tailored to access the nutritional intake among primary school pupils and its impact on their academic performance.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The broad objective of this study is to examine the nutritional intake of primary school pupils and its impact on their academic performance. Therefore, it will be sub-divided into the following:
i. To determine whether nutrition affect pupils.
ii. To find out if nutrition intake promotes pupils academic performance.
iii. To investigate how nutrition intake affects pupils academic performance.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
In order to carry out this study, a number of questions are formulated to guide the researcher.
i. How does nutrition affect pupils?
ii. Does nutrition intake promote pupils academic performance?
iii. How does nutrition intake affect pupil’s academic performance?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
Hypotheses are tentative or conceptual statements that show the relationship between two variables. For the purpose of this study, the following hypotheses are to guide the research work.
H01 – Nutrition intake has no significant effect on pupils.
H02 – Nutrition intake has no significant effect on pupils academic performance.
H03 – Scholastic achievement is a function of nutritional intake.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
One aspect in which this study is significant is that it used Nigerian background with a view to provide first hand information on the effect of nutrition intake on pupils’ academic performance in some selected primary schools in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.
Parents, teacher and government have a concerted effort to provide good nutrition that will enhance the academic performance of pupils.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This research is limited in scope to selected public primary schools in Ijebu-Ode. Schools in other local government will not be considered.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Nutrition: Nutrition has several components: energy (calories), macronutrients (eg, protein, carbohydrate, fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). The optimum levels of each are required for good nutrition.
Malnutrition: Malnutrition occurs when there is a major imbalance or insufficiency of nutrients. Note that obesity is a form of malnutrition.
Nutritional intake: Nutritional intake refers to the energy, macronutrients and micronutrients consumed in food and drink. The methodology for measuring nutritional intake is complex, and usually involves 24 hour diet recall.
Nutritional status: Nutritional status refers to the adequacy of energy, macronutrients and micronutrients in the body. Because people have different nutritional needs, people with the same nutritional intake may vary in nutritional status.