Four scientific studies, released last year, may help children make better choices about the food they eat.
Better food, better grades
In one study, researchers from Ohio State University found that the amount of fast food children eat – things like burgers, fries and soft drinks – can affect how well they do in school. The researchers compared eating habits and test scores for more than 11,000 students across the United States. Grade five students were asked how often they ate fast food, and then they were tested on reading, math and science. The students were tested again in grade eight. The researchers found that students who had reported eating fast food four to seven times a week when they were in grade five performed worse on the grade eight tests than students who rarely ate fast food.
The researchers also considered other things that might have affected the test scores – like TV viewing habits, exercise and the type of neighbourhood the children lived in – but found that diet was likely a key factor in how well they did. One reason could be that fast food lacks certain nutrients, like iron, that help developing brains learn better. Fast food also contains high amounts of fat and sugar, which can reduce the brain’s ability to learn and remember things.
Skipping meals, unhealthy snacks bad for kids
Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Eastern Finland found that children who frequently skipped meals and filled up on sugary snacks were more likely to have too much body fat and to have a greater risk of developing health problems such as diabetes or heart disease when they grew up. They studied the eating habits of 512 children, aged six to eight, and compared things like waist measurements, blood pressure and insulin levels. Other habits that increased the risk of health problems were: not eating enough fruits and vegetables; eating too much sugar, salt and fat; and eating for emotional reasons – like feeling sad or worried – rather than hunger. The researchers said children should eat regular meals and make better food choices to prevent future health problems.
Some kids crave sugar
According to another study, however, some children may have a tougher time choosing the right foods. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, say that some children’s brains may be programmed to make them crave sugar more than others.
The researchers studied 23 children aged eight to 12. Ten were obese (had too much body fat) and 13 were at a healthy weight. They gave the children a spoonful of table sugar mixed with water and asked them to swirl it around in their mouths and think about the taste. Meanwhile, the researchers watched brain scans of the subjects to see which areas were active during the tasting. They found that the brains of the obese children showed more activity in areas involved in emotion, awareness, taste and reward. This could mean that those children tend to be motivated by food, and to crave sugar because it makes them feel happy.
The researchers said being aware that some children respond to food emotionally could help them and their parents break bad food habits at an early age.
Typical-sized energy drink can double caffeine
Finally, a study from the National Food Institute of the Technical University of Denmark found that children who drink energy drinks – like Red Bull, Rockstar or Monster – might be consuming too much caffeine. Children aged 10 to 12 should have no more than 85 milligrams of caffeine per day. There are about 80 milligrams of caffeine in 250 millilitres of an average energy drink – about the same as a cup of coffee. However, many energy drinks are sold in cans that are almost twice that size, which makes it easy for children to consume almost double the recommended limit of caffeine.
When children have too much caffeine, it can make them anxious, restless and irritable, and make it hard for them to fall asleep. In more extreme cases, it may cause rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure or seizures. Too much caffeine over a long period of time may even affect bone development in growing children and adolescents. In Canada, energy drinks must carry a label stating that they are not recommended for children. The Canadian Medical Association says the sale of energy drinks to children and youth should be banned.
According to this article, researchers wanted to find out about the affects of food and caffeine on children’s grades and health. They studied children and certain kinds of food to find out whether eating right is important for kids (spoiler: it is).
Based on the information in this article, do you agree with the conclusions the researchers came to?
Do you think that eating healthy food helps you? How?
Reading Prompt: Demonstrating Understanding
This article summarizes four studies. Divide a sheet of paper into four (fold it or use lines) and label each one with a different study. Inside each one, made a list of all the most important facts you know about each study.
Demonstrate understanding of increasingly complex texts by summarizing and explaining important ideas and citing relevant supporting details (OME, Reading: 1.4)
Demonstrate understanding of increasingly complex texts by summarizing important ideas and citing a variety of details that support the main idea (OME, Reading: 1.4)
Language Feature: Alliteration
Some of the phrases in this article are “alliterative.” That means two or more words in a row (or close to each other) start with the same letter.
For instance: sugary snacks or fast food
Write five of your own descriptive, alliterative phrases to describe eating, health or food.
Pick one of them and use it in a sentence.
Read this Wikipedia article about alliteration. It includes some examples of alliteration by famous writers. Why do you think writers use alliteration?