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Ann Lukits, reporter for the Wall Street Journal, shared that sitting still and listening to the teacher can be a challenge for young children, especially after a long vacation. Scheduling a physical-education class before the morning bell could improve their focus, suggests a small study in Preventive Medicine Reports.
Researchers found that children spent more time following instructions and working quietly at their desk—so-called on-task behaviors—on days they participated in a school-run physical-activity program before the start of morning classes. On days they didn’t exercise, the children were more likely to interrupt, make noise and stare into space, known as off-task behaviors.
Gym classes are traditionally held during school hours but many schools have reduced the time allotted for physical activity in favor of academic subjects, the researchers said. Before-school programs may improve students’ in-class behavior and readiness to learn without taking time away from academics, the study suggested.
Previous studies have shown that bouts of high-intensity physical activity can enhance students’ cognition, especially executive function, which involves processes that make it possible to stay focused, the researchers noted. Read more
The “Let’s Move” Campaign shared that children who are overweight or obese can be undernourished at the same time if the foods and beverages they consume are not very nutritious in terms of vitamins and minerals. Nutrition deficiencies impair brain development and cognitive functioning, including learning. Energy needed for optimal child growth and development is impacted by diet.
Obesity increases the likelihood of certain diseases and health problems, such as:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
- High blood cholesterol
- Gynecological problems
- Liver and gallbladder disease
Obese children also face more social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem, which can continue into adulthood.
Children who are not physically active, regardless of their weight status, have more behavioral and disciplinary problems, shorter attention spans in class and do not perform as well in school compared to active children.
This study (http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?doi=10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.1475) suggests that growing up poor aﬀects brain development at an early age, and those brain changes can have huge eﬀects on academic achievement.
Researchers from Duke University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison tracked nearly 400 children and young adults in a longitudinal study over the course of six years, between 2001 and 2007. Every two years, the researchers met with the participants,whose socioeconomic backgrounds ranged from far below the poverty line to far above it.
At each meeting, the participants would undergo a brain scan, which measured the amount of gray matter in parts of the brain that are key to academic achievement: the frontal lobe (which helps with executive functioning and emotion regulation), the temporal lobe (memory an academically, like visual processing, math computation, visual motor coordination, concept formation, and more.
Michael Greger, M.D. shared that thirty years ago, virtually all diabetes in young individuals was thought to be autoimmune Type 1 diabetes, but since the mid-90s, we started to see an increase in Type 2 diabetes among youth, particularly in the United States. Indeed, “the term adult onset diabetes has now been scrapped and replaced with ‘Type 2’ because children as young as eight are now developing the disease.” And the effects can be just as devastating. A 15-year follow-up of children diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes found an alarming rate in young adults of blindness, amputation, kidney failure and death in young adulthood.
Why the dramatic rise in childhood diabetes? The dramatic rise in childhood diabetes is due to the dramatic rise in childhood obesity. During the past 30 years, the number of children diagnosed as being overweight has increased by more than 100 percent. Once an obese child reaches age six, it’s likely they’ll stay that way. And even if they don’t, being overweight in our youth predicts adult disease and death regardless of adult body weight.
Being an overweight teen may predict disease risk 55 years later, including twice the risk of dying from heart attack, more cancer, gout, and arthritis. In fact being overweight as a teen “was a more powerful predictor of these risks then being overweight in adulthood.” This underscores the importance of focusing on preventing childhood obesity.
How do we do it? From the official American Academy of Pediatrics clinical practice guidelines: the problem appears to be kids eating too much fat and added sugar, and not eating enough fruits and vegetables.
Doctors, at every occasion beginning soon after a child’s birth, should endeavor to give sound advice regarding nutrition and growth so that obesity and its complications may be curtailed. What might sound advice sound like?
The chair of the nutrition department at Loma Linda published a review suggesting not eating meat at all might be an effective strategy. Population studies have consistently shown that vegetarians are thinner than comparable non-vegetarians.
In the largest such study to date (highlighted in my video How to Prevent Prediabetes in Children), a body mass index over 30 is considered obese, 25 to 30 overweight, and under 25 an ideal weight. The non-vegetarians were up at 28.8, showing the average meat-eater in the U.S. is significantly overweight. As one gets more and more plant-based, the average BMI drops. But even the average vegetarian in the U.S. is overweight. The only dietary group that was, on average, ideal weight were those eating strictly plant-based. It comes out to be about a 30-pound difference between average vegans and meat-eaters.
n school-aged children, the consumption of animal foods (meats, dairy, or eggs) is associated with an increased risk of being overweight, whereas plant-based equivalents like veggie burgers, veggie dogs, and veggie cold cuts were not. The whole plant foods like grains, beans, and nuts were found to be protective.
This may be because plant-based diets are low in energy density and high in starch, fiber, and water, which may increase feelings of fullness and resting energy expenditure, meaning resting metabolic rate. Eating plant-based appears to boost metabolism, such that you just burn more calories at rest. However, we’re not sure how much of the benefits are due to increased consumption of plant foods versus decreased consumption of meat.
“Plant-based diets should be encouraged and promoted for optimal health. Local, national and international food policies are warranted to support social marketing messages and to reduce the social, cultural, economic and political forces that make it difficult to promote such diets.” For example, although the advice to consume a plant-based diet is sound, questions arise concerning the relatively high price of produce.
We could reduce the burden of childhood obesity and prevent further spread of the disease, but we need to ensure that plant foods are affordable and accessible to children of all income levels. Getting diabetes in childhood cuts about 20 years of their life. What parent wouldn’t go to the ends of the Earth to add decades to their children’s lives? Fruits and vegetables may not fit on the Dollar Menu, but our kids are worth it.
We make life and death decisions at the grocery store buying food for our family. It’s never too early to start our kids off on the right foot. See my video Heart Disease Starts in Childhood.
And healthy doesn’t have to mean more expensive. Check out Eating Healthy on a Budget.
Once one has prediabetes, there’s a way to prevent it from progressing further. See my video How to Prevent Prediabetes from Turning into Diabetes.