By Tina Paymaster, PHASE IV Functional Nutrition & Health Specialist
More and more schools across the country are working to improve the quality of food that they are providing to students. Today, one in five school-aged children is considered obese and rates have tripled since the 1970s. 1 In addition, diagnosed cases of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes for youth under the age of 20 are also continuously rising. 2
Poor diets high in unhealthy fats and refined sugars and low in fruit, vegetable and whole grains, along with lack of physical activity remain the main causative factors underlying the rising rates of overweight and obese children and young adults. This is cause for concern as obesity is linked to other serious diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, fatty liver disease, kidney disease and pregnancy problems. 3
Diet and lifestyle changes have been proven to be the most effective treatment to reduce weight and disease risk and ensure long-term health in most individuals. 4
In addition to the health complications that can result from improper nutrition, there have also been numerous studies on how nutrition and physical activity impact cognitive health and overall academic performance in school-aged children.
A 2017 study of 8,641 fifth-grade students showed a significant correlation between aerobic fitness and improvements in writing, English/language arts, math, science and social studies.5 A previous study in 2004 of 5200 fifth-grade students observed that undernourished children were more likely to have decreased attendance, attention and academic performance as well as experience more health complications compared to well-nourished children. 6 There also appears to be a link between impaired social behavior and malnutrition.7
The implications of poor nutrition go well beyond childhood years as academic performance in grade school often has a direct impact on college acceptance and performance and eventually success in the work force. Therefore, providing high quality nutrition to children now, will help to ensure vibrant health and success later in life as well.
While there is no question on the importance of proper diet and lifestyle for children, there is also rising evidence on how nutrition impacts cognitive health in older adults.
The Nurses’ Health Study, the largest cohort on dietary impacts and disease, studied 16,144 women from 1995-2001and indicated that a diet low in sodium and high in vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts was essential in maintaining cognitive function at older ages.8
Leafy greens were specifically noted as having a positive impact on the reduction of risk of cognitive impairment. 9
It is important to note that it’s not just what we eat that impacts weight, cognitive function and overall health – it’s how our body digests and assimilates the food we eat. Western science is finding undeniable evidence that the composition of the gut microbiome has a direct association with cognitive test performance and the proliferation of disease. 10
At PHASE IV, we pay special attention to digestive health and personalize all of our nutrition programs to meet the needs and goals of each individual.
If you’re interested in learning more about how PHASE IV can support you or your children’s health, book a complimentary consultation with our in-house Nutrition Specialist today.