OTTAWA – The Children’s Health and Nutrition Initiative – a proposal to make safe and healthy food available to all of Canada’s children – will help working families address real concerns relating to childhood obesity and malnutrition.
NDP children’s advocate Olivia Chow (Trinity Spadina) says the initiative calls for universal nutritious food programs to make breakfasts, snacks or lunches available to any child in Canada under the age of 18, in venues deemed most appropriate by each local community. This initiative will mean that no Canadian child will go to school hungry.
The initiative was unveiled today in Ottawa by a group of concerned Canadians led by Chow, Dr. Robert Cushman, former Medical Officer of Health for the City of Ottawa, and Ulla Knowles, a parent and Student Nutrition Facilitator at FoodShare Toronto.
Providing children with nutritious food has a long history.
Today most countries provide for at least one good meal per day. There has been some success here with school breakfast programs but they depend heavily on support from corporations who are not likely to be providing fruits and cheese and other foods children may not have access to at home.
If the Tories are sincere about wanting to tackle childhood obesity this would be a much better use of money than tax breaks for those that can afford hockey and soccer fees.
Non nutritious food can lead to obesity just the same as over eating can. The body constantly craves food in an effort to try to get the nutritive values it needs, and low cost food tends to be higher in caloric content but short on nutritive content. Leading even children who are eating little to become overweight.
Well fed children preform better at school, have fewer health issues, and have more energy. Therefore are more likely to test better, less likely to drop out, and less likely to need support from health services.
Proper nutrition also helps with behavioural problems some of which can be traced simply to anger from being hungry, but also insufficiencies in minerals and vitamins affect how the brain works;
Although it is unlikely, on the basis of the studies to date, that ADHD is purely a deficiency disease, most children with this diagnosis are deficient in certain key nutrients, and do respond very well.
Zinc and magnesium are the most commonly deficient nutrients in people with ADHD. In fact, symptoms of deficiency in these minerals are very similar to the symptoms of ADHD. Low levels of magnesium, for instance, can cause excessive fidgeting, anxious restlessness, insomnia, coordination problems and learning difficulties (if accompanied by a normal IQ).
Polish researchers studying 116 children with ADHD for their levels of magnesium found that 95 per cent of them were deficient in it – a much higher percentage than that among healthy children. The team also noted a correlation between levels of magnesium and severity of symptoms. Supplementing 200mg of magnesium for six months significantly reduced hyperactivity in the children with ADHD, but behaviour in the control group, who received no magnesium, worsened10.
Dr Neil Ward of the University of Surrey has come up with a finding that could explain the link between ADHD and such deficiencies. In a study of 530 hyperactive children, Ward found that compared to children without ADHD, a significantly higher percentage of children with the condition had had several courses of antibiotics in early childhood11. Further investigations revealed that children who had had three or more such courses before the age of three tested for significantly lower levels of zinc, calcium, chromium and selenium12. This is probably because antibiotics have a disruptive effect on beneficial gut flora and consequently on overall digestive health, impairing absorption.
Nutrients can modify brain biochemistry and behavior. Many studies indicate that one possible mode of action of nutrients is to induce alterations in the bioavailability of neurotransmitter precursors within the brain. However, a series of studies has also indicated that: (a) learning induces a decrease in the level of cholesterol in specific brain regions; (b) an iron-deficient diet induces changes in dopaminergic D receptor activity and in dopamine-associated behaviors (thermoregulation and motor activity) as well as in learning and memory capacities; and (c) dietary manipulation of a specific type of fatty acid resulted in an improved learning capacity, modification of the pain threshold level, and in thermoregulatory response. The most parsimonious explanation for these results seems to be that the treatments (learning, iron-deficient and fatty acid diets) induced changes in the lipid composition of the neuronal membrane.
One simple program could have such far ranging affects for the better.
This seems like the kind of program people of all political stripes would support.