New Study Discloses How Your Diet Affects Brain Health
It is widely known that too little iron can lead to cognitive problems but this new study as reported in Science Daily sheds light on just how much iron teenagers need to consume to ensure brain health throughout their lives.
Iron, and the proteins that transport it are critically important for brain function however, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide which, as Science Daily tells us; “results in poor cognitive achievement in school-age children.”
The research took place in America at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) and studied 600 teenagers that were not expected to be iron deficient.
"We found that healthy brain wiring in adults depended on having good iron levels in your teenage years," said Thompson, a member of UCLA's Laboratory of Neuro Imaging.
Thompson went on to say; “It underscores the need for a balanced diet in the teenage years, when your brain's command center is still actively maturing.”
So how much iron does the average British teenage girl consume?
It’s difficult to say although we do know that iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency.
Too little iron can impair body functions, but most physical signs and symptoms do not show up unless iron deficiency anemia occurs. Someone with early stages of iron deficiency may have no signs or symptoms.
When they do appear signs of iron deficiency anemia include:-
- Feeling tired and weak
- Decreased work and school performance
- Slow cognitive and social development during childhood
- Difficulty maintaining body temperature
- Decreased immune function, which increases susceptibility to infection
- Glossitis (an inflamed tongue)
In the United States the National Institute of Health recommends 8 mg/day for kids 9 to 13. For the rest of the teen years (14 to 18), it gets raised to 15 mg/day for girls.
The NIH also reports that "Iron intake is negatively influenced by low nutrient density foods, which are high in calories but low in vitamins and minerals. Sugar sweetened sodas and most desserts are examples of low nutrient density foods, as are snack foods such as potato chips. Among almost 5,000 children and adolescents between the ages of 8 and 18 who were surveyed, low nutrient density foods contributed almost 30 percent of daily caloric intake."
And, this has certainly been my own experience with few teenage girls eating iron dense vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and kale whilst eating poor quality meat products whose iron levels have been depleted through processing methods.
We need to get teenage girls eating good quality nutrient dense foods to ensure good brain health both now and in the future.
After spending her teenage years as an international athlete Maggie Ayre qualified as a Personal Trainer and Nutrition Adviser. For the last three years she has specialised in teenage girls working as a Fitness Coach for Teenage Girls. In 2012 Maggie will launch her Girls Nutrition Workshops and her 3G Program as well as continuing her work with individual girls and their mothers. She is available to speak at schools, women’s groups and community events. More information about Maggie’s work with teenagers can be found at www.maggieayre.com or www.femalefitnessrevolution.com.