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Watch Out For That Junk Food It Causes Stress!

I was reading a health supplement to a national newspaper some while back and one of those short two-inch filler articles caught my eye. The headline was "Junk Food Alert", or something along those lines, and it was about the effect of eating a fast-food-restaurant-type breakfast on young adults compared to a healthy cereal with skimmed milk.

Anyway what the people in white coats did was check the young adults two hours after their meal. I can only assume that these "young adults" were students because it is a politically-correct term for that age group and it is likely that hard-up students would want to earn some beer money by taking part in research like this.

I can just imagine that it would not be hard to persuade them to take part "So you want me to eat a fast-food breakfast and you are going to pay me for the privilege Dude are you real, I'd do it for free!" I suppose the hardest group to recruit would be the ones who were going to have to eat the healthy breakfast!

Now the interesting thing about their findings was that after just one meal, those who had eaten the fast-food breakfast showed significantly raised levels of stress-related blood pressure, heart rate and arterial stiffness! I will repeat after just one meal! Now being a student is a stressful time anyway with parental expectations, the physical changes of growing up, peer pressure, information-overwhelm etc and now we discover that what these kids eat can add to the problems if their meals are of the junk food variety.

Of course it has been common sense to realise that food like that served in some fast-food outlets was not the healthiest-possible choice of meal, but this type of research has demonstrated that it can have a significant impact on levels of stress. As an aside, various reports done in the UK by leading business organizations discovered that the average worker will take over nine days off a year due to sickness, and that the number two cause of absence is stress. The cost to businesses in the UK alone is billions of pounds. I wonder what would happen if we all followed a healthy diet?

So how do you encourage your kids to eat healthily so that they avoid the sort of stress referred to in this research, especially in the face of overwhelmingly-convincing advertising messages in our popular media?

Well the first question I'd ask you is what is your diet like, because if you are not eating five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day, having meals that are healthy, drinking lots of water and minimising your intake of alcohol and caffeine, then how do you expect your kids to do the same?

The example we set in our own homes will go a long way to helping steer our youngsters in the right direction in all sorts of behaviour, not least the food that we eat and the fluids that we consume. Of course peer and media pressure are always going to be constant opponents in these matters, but you can go a long way by setting the right example.

When I was thinking about writing this article, I was reminded of some research I read about in a book that described an experiment on food selection by very young children. Some five-year-olds were placed in a room which had one table piled high with sweets, chocolate, candies a sort of paradise for the average sugar-addicted child. On another table there was fresh fruit and vegetables with salad and lots of good wholesome food.

As you'd expect, initially the children only ate from the sugar-laden table because they had freedom of choice. Over time, and I forget the exact period but I believe it was a few days, the children gradually, by their own volition, started to eat more from the healthy table until eventually the majority were eating most of their meals from there. When they had the freedom to choose they ended up occasionally having the odd sugar-based treat, but naturally they gravitated to a healthy diet.

So I believe eating good wholesome food is not only good for us, it is what we will naturally choose if left to our own devices. You can only encourage teenagers just so much in what they eat, and maybe you might need to resort to pointing out that their particular music or sports idol eats healthily (because many of them do), but setting the example yourself and also making available a good range of 'healthy'-type snacks teenagers eat endlessly! as well as wholesome meals, is probably the best thing you can do.

I won't recommend a particular diet here because it is common sense fresh natural food, lots of water and an avoidance of "junk". Perhaps if you shift your own eating patterns, you might be less stressed too.

If you have any stories or advice on how you helped encourage your kids to eat a healthy diet then please do let me know.

Michael Tipper

To ask about any aspect of Accelerated Learning, e-mail himself (at) . Due to Michael's hectic schedule, he may not be able to write back, but will do his best to cover the main issues raised, in future articles [more about Michael on the page here].

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Silver Medallist in the World Memory Championships.


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