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Health News from Nurse Lynn: Children’s Thinking Skills Affected by Weight and Exercise

Nurse Lynn Friedman

A new study by the National Institute of Health-Medline Plus suggests that a child’s weight and activity level may affect their thinking and learning skills. The researchers studied 45 normal-weight children ages 7-11; 24 were active and the rest were not.  The activity’s they considered were swimming, gymnastics, soccer, and dance. The researchers found, as expected, that the normal weight children had less body fat and a lower resting heart rate then the overweight, inactive children. But what was surprising was that the active children did better on tests of mental skills, such as planning and paying attention, than their active counterparts.

Author of the study, Catherine Davis, a clinical health psychologist stated, “Activity made a difference even among normal weight kids.  That verifies that physical activity makes a difference in brain function.”

Another study by NIH suggests cutting added sugar without cutting calories can improve the metabolic health of children.  Researchers recruited 43 children between the ages of 9 and 18, who were obese and had at least one other metabolic disorder such as hypertension or high triglyceride levels.  They were given nine full days worth of kid friendly food that restricted sugar, but maintained the same fat, protein, carbohydrate and calorie levels as their previous home diets.  Total dietary sugar was reduced from 28 to 10 percent and fructose from 12 to 4 percent. After the new eating plan, blood tests, blood pressure and other medical exams were performed.  After just 9 days on the restricted diet, nearly every measure of the participant’s metabolic health improved, without change in weight or exercise. Blood pressure decreased cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin levels dropped and liver function improved.  The lead author stated,” This study definitively shows that sugar is metabolically harmful not because of its calories or its effects on weight; rather sugar is metabolically harmful because it’s sugar.” Again, read those food labels and remember those 9 teaspoons of sugar in a 20 ounce bottle of Gatorade.  

Those hidden sugar calories are everywhere!

Lynn Friedman, RN
School Nurse



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