An Evaluation of Current Practice with Reference to Nutrition Guidelines.

Seddon, Christina (2014) An Evaluation of Current Practice with Reference to Nutrition Guidelines. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Background: Many studies have highlighted the benefits of good nutrition for improved cognitive performance and educational outcomes (Hoyland et al, 2008). The recognition that children’s diets were nutritionally inadequate, led to the re-introduction of statutory nutritional standards in 2001 (Nelson et al, 2004). However, lack of enforcement, led to revised Government Nutrient Based Standards (GNBS), with the recommendation that primary schools comply with regulations by 2008. The purpose of this research was to evaluate whether school meal provision in Lancashire primary schools, is meeting GNBS, 2007, and secondly, whether a mid-morning snack has an impact on the cognitive performance of primary school children.
Methods: One Lancashire primary school was selected as a representation of 525 primary schools across Lancashire that receives nutrition provision from Lancashire County Council Commercial Group (LCCG). School meals were collected on a daily bases over 3 weeks, and prepared for laboratory analysis. The nutritional composition of the school meals were analysed using both direct chemical analysis and indirect food composition database analysis. One-sample t-tests were conducted to compare the mean differences derived from both analyses per meal, with GNBS. For the second phase, 21 children (aged 6-7) from the same school participated in a short memory test on two occasions, test 1 before a mid-morning snack, and test 2 after a mid-morning snack, to assess cognitive performance.
Results: Chemical and database analyses revealed the energy content of the LCCG school meals were significantly below the minimum GNBS of 530 kcal, 5% per meal (chemical: 392 ± 72 kcal/meal, database: 411 ± 44 kcal/meal). Mean total fat values (chemical: 8.28 ± 2.1g/meal, database: 15.78 ± 3.5 g/meal) were significantly below the maximum GNBS of 20.6g/meal. Carbohydrate content (chemical: 52.66 ± 12.22 g/meal, database: 53.67 ± 7.49g/meal) was significantly below the minimum GNBS of 70.60 g/meal, however protein content exceeded the minimum GNBS of 7.5g/meal (chemical: 13.21 ± 2.9 g/meal, database:16.30 ± 3g/meal). Sodium content also exceeded the maximum GNBS of 499mg/meal (chemical: 500 ± 179 mg/meal, database: 516 ± 160mg/meal). Calcium content (chemical: 210 ± 81 mg/meal) met the GNBS, whereas (database: 171 ± 46 mg/meal) did not meet the GNBS, however both values derived were not significantly different from the GNBS 193mg/meal.
Cognitive tests revealed a significant improvement in memory function, after consuming a mid-morning snack (mean score 8.67 ± 1.42) than without a snack (mean score 5.81 ± 2.58) (p< 0.001).
Conclusion: The analysis of primary school meals as provided revealed that generally the GNBS were met for protein and total fat, but not for carbohydrate. Total energy was significantly lower than minimum GNBS, however this has been observed by other studies and has been suggested that lower energy content may not be unwelcome. Of greater concern is the high sodium content of the meals. Findings revealed by the cognitive testing, suggest that providing a snack mid-morning can enhance cognitive performance.

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