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How eating more junk food can impact your child's mental health

IANS May 15, 2024

While the association between junk food -- rich in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats -- doctors on 14 May warned how these may also contribute to poor mental health in young children.

Junk food or fast food has become a common part of children's eating habits nowadays and lacks important nutrients for better growth. It is also known to cause weight gain and obesity -- a major risk factor for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer.

In addition, junk food can also affect children’s behaviour and mood.

Studies have provided evidence that a diet high in fast food and sugary drinks can lead to behavioural problems, including hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and even depression

“Junk food can significantly impact a child's mental health. Excessive consumption of junk food, which is often high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and additives, can lead to nutritional deficiencies and imbalances,” said Dr. Amitabh Saha – Associate Director, Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences, Vaishali.

“This can affect concentration, cognitive function, and mood regulation, ultimately influencing a child's overall mental well-being,” he added.

A recent study, published in The BMJ, linked consuming higher amounts of ready-meals, sugary cereals, and fizzy drinks with a higher risk of anxiety and depression.

“Fast food and carbonated soft drinks containing caffeine have a high content of sugars. This increases the surge of sugar in the body momentarily and then rapidly crushes the sugar levels, leading to irritability and mood swings in children,” said Dr Rishikesh Dessai, Consultant Internal Medicine.

The expert called for minimising the exposure of children to these fast food options and providing a completely balanced meal for the children, which should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

He also advised children to do physical activity, like playing games outside, by engaging in outdoor activities.

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