Do You Know Nutrition: Does bad nutrition equal bad kids?

By Phylis Canion
May 7, 2013 at 12:07 a.m.

I have a child who is on the path of self-destruction, and I am at my wit's end. We have had many tests run with no conclusive results, and now I am wondering how much our terrible diet and poor food choices are the cause. How possible is that? We are not breakfast eaters.

The teenage diet is grossly inadequate in most vitamins due to the excessive consumption of caffeine, sugar and junk foods laden with artificial fillers and added hormones.

Just a depletion of the B-complex vitamins, essential in the body to metabolize sugars, has a laundry list of symptoms including fatigue, depression, confusion, memory loss, muscular weakness, indigestion and skin eruptions.

It is not difficult to imagine that deficiencies of essential nutrients from poor dietary lifestyles can cause subtle changes in cognition and behavior.

According to Dr. John A McDougall, a study in Great Britain found that of nine children with persistent antisocial, disruptive and/or criminal behaviors, all tested positive for food intolerances and allergies. When the allergens were removed, their antisocial behavior ceased.

If fresh, organic fruits and vegetables are not eaten, vitamin intake is low, which reduces the enzyme activity in the brain. Neurotransmitters are synthesized from and fueled by vitamins. As an example, when vitamin B3, or niacin, is deficient, it can cause serotonin to be undersupplied. Low magnesium can cause hyperactivity, zinc deficiency can impair cognitive function, and the list goes on and on.

This domino effect tumbles wildly when children and young adolescents are allowed to choose junk food instead of nutritious foods. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, breakfast consumption is rapidly declining among adolescents, especially those between the ages of 15 to 18.

A concern is that if the younger generation does eat breakfast, it is primarily empty calories from sugary muffins and energy drinks. Remember, breakfast is a compound word made up of break and fast - in other words, breakfast means to break the fast.

Meeting the nutritional challenges of a growing body is difficult considering that a child grows from 60 pounds to 160 in only a few short years. This period of transformation is difficult within the body as it progresses through this metamorphoses, let alone having to deal with deficiencies that hamper the process.

That old saying, "You are what you eat," is most appropriate when one understands that we can only grow if we are properly nourished.

Thought for the week: Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

The next cooking class at The Cooking Depot in Cuero is Wednesday, and the next free nutrition class will be Monday at Organic Emporium.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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