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Healthier diets foster success and well-being

We recently hosted an event on flourishing in adolescence, where Dr Alex Richardson from Oxford university presented some scientific findings on the importance of consuming certain foods, such as those foods containing omega three fatty acids. The research shows that certain fats are vital for our well-being and that increasing our intake of these fats positively impacts upon our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. A new study further supports Alex?s findings - that diet is vitally important for well-being, by showing that children who have healthier diets do better in school.

The study was a survey carried out with around 5,000 Canadian young people and their parents. The researchers asked for various information such as the child?s dietary intake, height, weight and they assed overall diet quality with the Diet Quality Index ? International (DQI-I). The healthy diets included fruit, vegetables, grains and dietary fibre, protein, calcium and moderate fat intake. The unhealthy diet included a high amount of saturated fats and salts

The young people in the study completed a standardised literacy test. What the researchers found was that there was a link, above and beyond socio-economic status, between higher DQI-I scores and literacy tests: those in the group with the best scores, compared to the lowest score, were 41 % less likely to fail the test.

This piece of research shows that what people eat is vitally important for behaviour: healthy eating directly relates to passing or failing a literacy test. However, what is not clear is the relationship between fat in the diet and test scores. This study says that less calorie intake from fat was associated with a decreased chance of failing a test. This may be confusing to people as they may take it to mean that all fats are bad. This is not the case. Saturated fats are not good for us but we do need other types of fats as they are essential for our good health. Dr Alex Richardson spells this out in her book They are what you feed them

The Mayo clinic has recently collected some findings on the benefits of omega three fats for cardiovascular disease, to access their research click here.  There is also some research on the benefits of polyunsaturated fats on depression and inflammatory diseases, though you may need to purchase this article

Many things contribute to a flourishing individual and a flourishing society, what this research shows us is that food is one of them.  The research illustrates that food can effect how we think, behave and feel. When you look around and see what people are consuming, while at the same time observing the  rise in problems such as anxiety, depression, attentiion deficit disorder, agression and so on, it makes sense that changing one's diet may help alleviate some of these problems.  Though, of course, this is not a panacea as many other factors are involved too.


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