At the same time kids in the United States are drinking more sugary drinks than ever, they are also drinking less of something vitally important to their mental and physical health: water. In fact, more than half of American children and teens are under hydrated, say researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
In a report published last month in the American Journal of Public Health, it was revealed that 54.5% of our youth are not adequately hydrated, in large part because they are not drinking enough water. For the study, researchers gathered information for more than 4,000 children and adolescents (ages 6 to 19) using data from the 2009 through 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They also discovered that boys are 76% more likely to suffer from insufficient hydration, and a quarter of U.S. kids don’t drink plain water at all.
Why Does it Matter?
Even mild dehydration can lead to health problems, say experts, since water plays an important role in countless bodily functions including digestion, circulation, metabolism, temperature regulation, and kidney function. Poor hydration may also cause fatigue, moodiness, and problems paying attention and retaining information in school, which is why drinking enough water is especially important during critical development years.
According to the National Academy of Medicine in Washington, D.C., school-age children should drink between 7.5 and 14 cups of water daily. Schools can help by replacing sugary drinks with bottled water, as well as providing access to fresh, clean drinking water throughout the day. Parents can do their part by replacing soft drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened fruit drinks with purified water.
Until only recently, it may have seemed silly to say the bacteria in your digestive tract can somehow “talk” to your brain, but more and more scientists are finding evidence of such a relationship. They call it the gut-brain connection, and last month researchers at Oregon State University revealed how a poor diet can impact that connection and lead to a decline in healthy brain function.
The standard American diet (or SAD) includes high amounts of sugar and unhealthy fats, which OSU scientists say may affect our ability to process and remember information. Specifically, a high-sugar, high-fat diet impacts something called “cognitive flexibility,” which allows us to think about more than one idea at a time. Too much fat and sugar also leads to problems with memory, say researchers.
The study involved young, healthy male mice who were fed one of three different diets: a high-sugar diet, a high-fat diet, or a normal diet. Fecal samples were taken before and after to monitor the bacterial environment in the gut, and both groups underwent testing to assess physical and mental function.
Looking at the results, the research team discovered a sharp decline in mental and physical ability for those mice on the high-sugar and high-fat diets when compared with those on a normal diet. Cognitive flexibility was decreased with both groups, and those on the high-sugar diet experienced significant memory impairment. Interestingly, the fecal samples of both groups showed lower numbers of beneficial bacteria and higher numbers of harmful bacteria in the gut.
“This work suggests that fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and that’s one of the reasons those foods aren’t good for you.” said lead author Dr. Kathy Magnusson. “It’s not just the food that could be influencing your brain, but an interaction between the food and microbial changes.” Previous studies have found that similar changes in gut bacteria due to diet may trigger an unhealthy immune response in the body and promote inflammation.