Source: The Guardian
Date: 27 May 2003

Revising students select stimulating food

Polly Curtis

Sales of so-called brain foods are soaring as students all over the country plough through the exam season, according to a leading supermarket. Tesco has reported higher sales of fish, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, all types of fresh fruit and vitamin supplements. Demand for coffee and bottles of drinking water has also risen dramatically, especially in large university towns.

The figures, which had puzzled consumer researchers, explain why demand for fresh fruit high in vitamin C now hits an unexpected peak in late April and May, as well as during the summer months of July and August.

Tesco said the rise in sales of healthy foods around exam time had been evident in university towns and cities for the past two years.

But the supermarket's researchers believe the trend has now spread to millions of school pupils sitting A-level and GCSE exams all over the country.

Steve Murrells, one of the company's directors, said: "There's a growing belief that exam success can, quite literally, be served up on a plate. Students now prepare for their studying in the same way athletes prepare for their races.

"For the first time, they are now using a good diet as well as intensive study to help boost performance during this critical time in their academic lives.

Sales of fish, particularly salmon, trout and cod, have leapt by up to 34%, with demand highest in university towns such as Cambridge, Oxford, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Durham. York, Liverpool, Southampton, and Exeter also show similar rises. A surge has been seen in ready cooked prawns, which researchers believe are being bought by students eager to eat fish, but who lack the necessary culinary skills to cook vitamin packed foods.

Brigid McKevith, nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, said: "Vegetables are great. Oily fish is important because it contains omega 3, which helps in brain development, but we don't know what the benefits are to developed brains. Water is important because dehydration can affect concentration and coffee might keep them awake."

But she added: "There's very little scientific evidence that any one food is good for your brain, but a balanced variety is important. Most people don't have enough fruit and vegetables full stop. But I don't think food will necessarily improve a grade form a B+ to an A."

According to nutritionists, the best foods for brainpower are:

  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Tuna
  • Avocados
  • Cod
  • Plaice
  • Sprouts
  • Lettuce
  • Mackerel
  • Fresh fruit

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