Thursday, 26 October 2017

Nutrition, Children and the School Environment


Today’s children are in remarkably poor shape. Overweight and obesity is now the fifth leading global mortality risk (WHO, 2013 Obesity and overweight: Factsheet 311) http:// and there has been a marked increase over the period in childhood obesity worldwide. The UK Government document ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People: a call to action on obesity in England’ Department of Health 2011) expresses an aim to achieve a sustained downward excess weight gain in children by 2020. The jury is still out on the likelihood of this worthy ambition being realised. Obese children are likely to become obese adults with attendant chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease presenting at earlier ages. 

An eight year study of over half a million children in the UK reported a marked use in insulin amongst the 12-18 age sector suggesting a rise in the prevalence and incidence of diabetes. (Hsia Y et al 2009: An increase in the prevalence of type 1 and 2 diabetes in children and adolescence: results from prescription data from a UK general practice database. Br J Clin Parmacol 67(2):242-9). The rise in chronic disease brings in its wake, increased financial pressure upon health services. A UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey further reveals that children are being badly served by their diets (Bates B et al 2014 National Diet and Nutrition Survey Results from Years 1, 2 3 and 4 (combined) of the Rolling Programme 2008/09 – 2011/012. public Health.

These outcomes are largely preventable and schools have a key role to play in the nutrient content of children’s daily diet. The food that children consume there from day one can influence their mental and physical health for the better both now and later in the life span and play a significant part in reducing the onset of future chronic disease and reducing the obesity burden. Studies are emerging to support these arguments, whether supplied by Public Health England (The link between pupil health and wellbeing and attainment. A briefing for head teachers, governors and staff in education settings. or academic sources such as a 2012 study (Eating Breakfast enhances the efficiency of neural networks engaged during mental arithmetic in school-aged children. Physiol behave 016(4):548-55 Pivik RT et al) demonstrating that breakfast consumption boosted the efficiency of school children’s brain nerve networks when they were engaged with mental arithmetic, as compared with children who had not eaten breakfast.

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