MOSCOW, November 14. Dietary and sleep disorders reduce children’s performance at school and lead to an increase in depressive moods, food addiction and obesity, UrFU scientists reported. The results of the study were published in the journal Nutrients.
Childhood obesity is a serious medical and social problem: according to WHO, over the past forty years, the number of adolescents suffering from excess weight has increased 10 times in the world. Typically, research on the causes of obesity is based on the experience of working adults, but the eating behavior of children has its own specifics.
Scientists of the Ural Federal University named after the first President of Russia B.N. Yeltsin (Ural Federal University) studied circadian rhythms (cycles of daily activity depending on the time of day – ed.) of more than twelve thousand students in grades 6–11 of secondary schools. The connections between circadian rhythms, nutrition and academic performance of schoolchildren were analyzed.
“Ten percent of the examined schoolchildren were overweight, while 6.4% were underweight. Another 2.2% of children and adolescents showed signs of visceral obesity, 20.2% of schoolchildren had moderate and severe depression, and 5.3% had food addiction,” said Olga Dorogina, associate professor of the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychophysiology at UrFU.
She noted that in adolescents, in addition to the growth and development of the body, the academic load increases significantly, therefore, if a child does not get enough sleep or does not eat properly, this can lead to a deterioration in his emotional state and a decrease in academic performance.
Results Research has shown that teenagers with low grades and depression are more likely to suffer from food addiction. Due to internal worries, such children do not follow the diet, the so-called chrononutrition: they skip breakfast and have late dinner.
According to scientists, there is a high probability of obesity becoming chronic, since changes in habits occur during the maturation of the functions of the nervous regulatory centers.
Currently, the scientific community is discussing the possibility of limiting food as a means of preventing obesity. However, UrFU data indicate that fasting or reducing the eating window causes negative consequences for the psycho-emotional state and cognitive functions in children.
Previously, UrFU scientists identified another factor leading to the risk of developing obesity – studying during the second shift. Shifting the sleep phase to a later time entails a negative change in diet: a change in the time of the main meal. If a child goes to bed late, he will not want to have breakfast in the morning; therefore, when hunger arises before lunch, the child is highly likely to eat something quick, but harmful – a high-calorie product with a bright taste, that is, high in fat and sugar.
The researchers created a combined “School Meals” test, consisting of sections: personal data, study schedule, diet and school diet. The level of depression was assessed using the Zung scale, food addiction – the Yale scale, body mass index was determined using the self-assessment method.
After analyzing the data obtained, experts recommended reorganizing the educational process, taking into account the characteristics of chrononutrition of different ages, and ideally completely abandoning classes for the second time shift.
In further work, scientists will test theories about the influence of other factors on children's diet, such as latitude, time of year, social status, level of physical activity and others.
< br />The study was conducted within the framework of the Priority 2030 program.