Fast Food, Stress and Academics: The Role Food Plays in our Lives

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Today, a majority of Americans are considered obese; these people practice unhealthy lifestyles that inevitably get passed down to their children. Most people realize that eating produced, chemical-filled foods can lead to an array of medical issues down the road; however, it is becoming clearer that the foods you put into you body can affect you almost immediately. Obesity and being unhealthy stem from a variety of causes, from being restricted to buying cheap, produced food, to lacking knowledge about lifestyle changes or what certain foods can do to your body. I decided to choose this topic because I feel that in our high school many kids don’t have the time to decide whether or not what they’re eating is truly healthy. Many students fail to realize that certain foods they eat throughout the day immediately affect their ability to function in school and perform to their highest potential. 

Before I discuss the negative effects that certain foods can have on people, it is important to note that weight gain can be the effect of other medical and health issues other than just your diet. This article in the New York Times discusses the issues with a show called “Biggest Loser,” where contestants ultimately compete to lose the most weight. Even though the contestants that make it to the final are smaller than half their original size, it seems as though in years after the show, they regain all the weight and in some cases, even more. Scientist Kevin Hall took on this project to monitor the people who have lost large amounts of weight in a short amount of time. This article shows the story of several “Biggest Loser” contestants and their journey after the show. One of those people is a man named Danny Cahill: he won the show 7 years ago, setting a record for the most weight loss ever on the show. At the end of the show he weighed in at 191 lbs, down from his original 430, all of which was done over 7 months. Now Danny Cahill weighs 295lbs and Dr. Hall explains why. Even when Danny was overweight his metabolism was still normal; however, by the time he ended the show his metabolism had drastically decreased. He wasn’t burning enough calories to maintain his new, slim figure. Over the six years that Dr. Hall watched Danny, his metabolism just continued to decrease and he gained more and more weight. Nothing was particularly wrong with Danny’s diet; it was just the fact that his metabolism was slowing down. This case is just one of the many reasons why people are overweight. This chart shows how the different contestants discussed in the article fight a slower metabolism. (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/health/biggest-loser- weight-loss.htmlaction=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=Moth- Visible&moduleDetail=inside-nyt- region-1&module=inside- nyt-region&region=inside-nyt- region&WT.nav=inside-nyt- region&_r=0)

NYT biggest loser

A recent article from Public School Review discusses the common issue of kids being deprived of food and essential nutrients that are vital to the basic functions of their bodies. Many kids eat foods with an outstanding amount of calories; however, these foods don’t supply vitamins and nutrients. According to this article, kids with unhealthy diets have more issues when it comes to their health, academic learning and psychosocial behavior. Despite leading to many different medical issues down the road, malnutrition impacts kids’ emotional responses, reactions to stress, learning disabilities, and other medical issues, which prevents them from functioning at their full potential. Not only do processed foods that are high in calories lack essential nutrients, they are also extremely high in saturated fats, which impair learning and memory. A vast majority of foods with high levels of saturated fats are cheap, which makes them appealing for schools to supply in their cafeterias. 

Researchers at the University of Alberta looked at elementary and middle school students and the link between what they ate and academic performance. For the study, they specifically looked at 4,589 fifth-graders, over 19% of whom failed their previous literacy assessment. They found that the kids who ate a high amount of fruits, vegetables, protein, and fiber, with small amounts of foods that contain fats, performed better on their literacy tests, as opposed to the kids who ate foods with high amounts of salt and saturated fats. With these results, the researchers wanted to figure out a way to make sure that children were able to perform to their fullest potential at school. They emphasized the importance of having nutritious breakfast that provides kids with essential vitamins and proteins in order to focus in school. It is also extremely important that you avoid eating sugar, which causes a fluctuation in energy levels.(http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-health- nutrition-better- grades-story.html)

I came across an article that presents a national study that shows how kids who eat more fast food not only perform worse in school than those who don’t, but also show less academic improvement overall. Kelly M. Purtell from Ohio State University looked at performances in reading, math, and science for kids between the grade levels five and eight. She began by looking at a national survey that looks at over 12,000 kids, known as the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort. After asking students how much fast food they usually eat in a week, she compared it to the students’ academic achievements and found that kids who ate more fast food had a slower growth in academic achievement. Purtell found that the more fast food the kids ate, the lower their rate of academic success was; even kids who ate fast food once or twice a week showed more success academically than kids who ate fast food almost everyday. She says, “These findings indicate that fast food consumption is linked with deleterious developmental outcomes in children beyond obesity.” Purtell makes it clear that eating fast food is not just affecting kids with obesity; instead, it impacts development for all children. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/23/fast-food- school-effects_n_6369284.html)

Considering that Friends Academy strives to have a very healthy lunch selections for their students, I decided to interview a few students in order to see if they thought the lunch selection allowed them to eat a more nutritious and enjoyable meal. For me personally, I am an extremely picky eater so I don't like a lot of the foods that are offered. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way either: many of my friends also feel this way, which is why I wanted to interview them. The first person I talked to told me that he/she eats pasta or a bagel when they are served; however when they aren’t, he/she occasionally eats salad, but it’s not something that they really enjoy. This person also told me that they enjoy eating the chips and pretzels that are only served on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. For the other days in the week, this person usually doesn’t even bother going to lunch since there is rarely anything they want to eat, so instead they resort to eating snacks that they have brought from home. To my knowledge, hardly eating from around 7 in the morning to around 4 at night while walking around school and sitting in classes all day is not at all healthy. Even when there is something that this person wants to eat it doesn’t at all provide the student with proper nutrients to restore their energy. Lastly I think it’s important to note that even though this student is fairly strong academically, they are hungry during classes. I then decided to interview a second student who is not a pickyeater. They told me that even though the food isn’t the best thing in the world, it is at least way better than what most schools are served. However, this person did mention that they really don’t believe that what they eat for lunch is so healthy. Unless you decide to just get a sandwich or a salad anything else really isn’t that healthy for you. All the ice cream, baked goods, chips and pretzels, pasta, bagels, etc. aren’t good for you. So this student concluded that even though they eat the food at Friends Academy everyday it isn’t exactly healthy.

 

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