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Health and Wellness
Will Nutrition Help Our Children?
BSN, RN, FNP (ret) Wellness Consultant
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 • Posted August 31, 2012 11:26 AM

When Hippocrates, the ancient father of Western medicine, proclaimed, "Let food be thy medicine," chances are he wasn't thinking about chicken nuggets or Twinkies. He didn't know about partially hydrogenated fats, refined sugars and flours, or syrupy-sweet soft drinks that could double as toilet cleaners.

And though this unique scholar's medical theories have been revised, his simplistic 2,400 year old recipe for health that included fresh air, a nutritious diet, and regular exercise is a keeper. Ironically though, we've lost our way in this progressive world and succumbed to a dangerous opiate over the last few decades - a sedentary, fast food lifestyle. And that comes to this point: Just exactly how does nutrition affect our children?

Fourteen studies from around the world show that improved nutrition helps children get more from their education. A New York City study showed that improved nutrition improved achievement about 50%, and fewer children were labeled "learning disabled" during the three years of the study. A California study showed that improved nutrition for 18 weeks reduced behavioral problems about 60%, improved IQ as much as 15 points, and improved grades in children ages six to twelve.

In Arizona, three months of improved nutrition resulted in an average 10 point gain in IQ and fewer behavior problems such as defiance, disrespect, and property damage. In a juvenile facility, improved nutrition resulted in 90% less violent acting out among 15 year olds.

Inadequate food intake limits children's ability to learn. Chronically undernourished children must use their energy for tasks in order of most importance. First comes maintenance of critical organ function, second is growth, and third is social interaction and cognitive function. Most kids today are spending all of their energy on just maintaining function with little left over for learning.

Improved nutrition ( especially in fruits, vegetables, berries, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes) strengthen the immune system preventing colds, flu, and infections, reduces symptoms of allergies and asthma, and reduces risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke - the three leading disease killers. Dr. Charles Attwood in his best -selling book "Dr. Attwood's Low Fat Prescription for Kids" stated there is reason to suspect that victims of either cancer or heart attack are afflicted with these maladies in part because of what they ate during their childhood.

Yet, we feed our plants better than our kids. We wouldn't give a plant soda, but rather, good clean water and nutrients, right? Yet, less than seven percent of our children and adolescents consume the recommended three to five servings of fruit and three to five servings of vegetables per day. In 1970, Americans spent about six billion dollars on fast food, and in 2011, that figure was $110 billion. In the meantime, our dreams of vegetable-heaped plates around the family dinner table have turned into the sad reality of pizza delivery.

Ultimately, the choice to realign a national mindset is ours. Never before have our children been so imperiled by a lack of exercise, poor diets, and cultural influences. At the exact time that their growing bodies need solid, nutrient-dense food, fresh air, and exercise, many are hunched in front of screens overeating, yet sadly malnourished.

We are in the midst of a war - a war for the nutritional health of our children. It's a war we should be waging by teaching our children how to eat right and by making sure that they do it. Unfortunately, we've been fighting a losing battle for a long time. We're ''too busy" to make sure our children eat the way they should. We don't completely understand what "eating right" means ourselves.

But there is hope in the horizon. In Texas, rules that take effect this year will ban the sale of soft drinks, candy, and other junk foods near the school cafeterias. Students will still be able to buy these foods at vending machines in other locations in the schools, but it is a start. Texas educators state that there are over 800,000 overweight students in the state and that something must be done.

As you might imagine, this will be an incredible uphill battle. The food industry spends billions every year promoting its products and claims that there is nothing wrong with junk food. The action does not stop with schools. Lawsuits are starting to be filed against food companies. McDonalds just settled a class action suit for $10 million because the company had not informed people that its French fries were cooked in oil that contained beef extract.

Some people consider this a long shot, but that's what they said about the tobacco lawsuits ten years before the court victories started happening. Ultimately, food companies will be held liable for the junk they have promulgated on the public and especially on our children.

The executives who run the fast food industry are not bad men. They are businessmen. They will sell free-range, organic, grass-fed hamburgers if you demand it. They will sell whatever sells at a profit. The real power of the American consumer has not yet been unleashed. It's not too late. Even in this fast food nation, you can still have it your way.

As parents, let's rally our government, our communities, doctors, health care providers, school administrators, teachers, and coaches to support our kids' heath - and make a difference.

Disclaimer: Facts in these articles are obtained from medical and clinical journals, scientific publications, and published trade books. These articles are written and published strictly for information purposes. Consult your health care provider for your specific medical needs. For any questions, comments or suggestions contact Maryella at or

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