Thursday, June 09, 2011

"Good" food improves exam results?

That the definition of "healthy" food was eccentic below (are "local" foods really better for you?) suggests that we are just seeing a "Hawthorne" effect here -- or, more generally, a placebo effect. It's the attention and enthusiasm that has an effect, not the food. No double blind controls, it would seem.

Obese children eating unhealthy food are more likely to have poor exam results, an experiment has revealed. Researchers found that school children eating good food at lunchtime are four times more likely to concentrate in the afternoon.

This led to pupils' exam marks showing a massive improvement with inspection rates by education watchdog Ofsted soaring.

Nearly 4,000 schools took part in the Food For Life Partnership (FFLP). The research, which was carried out by a team from the University of the West of England, also revealed that pupils' interest in healthy foods had an effect on their eating habits at home and their parents' shopping habits.

It found that serving fresh food instead of harmful fats found in biscuits, burgers and cakes had a quick effect on pupils' academic achievement and behaviour. Emma Noble, director of FFLP, said: 'This is carrying on the healthy eating project in schools started by Jamie Oliver but this is a longer term project looking at what young people eat in and out of school. 'Very quickly they found that serving a child good food at lunchtime makes them four times more likely to concentrate in the afternoon,' according to the Sunday Express.

Many of the schools involved in the project set up their own gardens. And it was discovered that children would enjoy eating vegetables they had grown themselves - despite normally turning their noses up at them.

Ian Nurser, headteacher of St Peter’s Church of England School in Wem, Shropshire, said results at his school had been boosted since the schoolchildren started eating healthier meals each day. 'They are very proud of knowing what they should be eating and take a great interest in putting together a healthy meal each day. 'They all learn about links to local produce and really think about things. Our results have steadily improved since we started this project.

'What pupils are learning in the garden and how to cook to a high level are life skills not available to most young people, with 12 per cent of value added in terms of boosted results.'

Libby Grundy, FFLP director, said that despite being pleased with the results of the experiment, she was concerned that cuts to local authority school meal budgets could see more unhealthy ready meals in schools. She said: 'With one in 10 children classed as obese just as the programme looks as if it has reached the tipping point, cuts to school meal budgets could undo all the good work.'


'A significant step forward' in the fight against Alzheimer's: Mad cow disease drug found to block onset of dementia

A drug used to fight mad cow disease could offer hope of a significant breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer's. Two of the antibodies in medication for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease block the onset of the most common cause of dementia, scientists have discovered. The unexpected findings came as they were developing treatments for CJD.

In a 'significant step forward' in the battle against Alzheimer's, it was found that the antibodies prevent a rogue protein called amyloid beta from gathering in the brain and damaging nerve cells.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, revealed that antibodies ICS-18 and ICSM-35 help to preserve brain function and prevent memory loss, the symptom which most characterises the devastating impact of Alzheimer's.

Lead researcher Professor John Collinge, from University College London, said: 'We're thrilled that this discovery shows in mice that these two antibodies which we are developing to treat CJD may also have a role in treating more common forms of dementia like Alzheimer's disease.

'If these antibody drugs prove to be safe in use to treat CJD we will consider whether studies in Alzheimer's disease should be carried out.'

Professor Dominic Walsh, a co-author of the study from University College Dublin, said: 'A unique aspect of this study is that we used amyloid beta extracted from human brain, the same material we believe is causing memory loss in patients with this devastating disease and we identified two antibodies that could block this effect.

'The use of these specific antibodies is particularly exciting since they have already undergone extensive pre-clinical testing for use in treating CJD. 'Thus a lot of basic work has already been done and could fast-track these antibodies for use in humans. The next step is further validation in other disease models of Alzheimer's and then safety trials in humans.'

Trials of drugs developed from these studies start on patients with CJD next year but could now be fast-tracked for Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Meanwhile, a brain scan that can detect Alzheimer's years in advance could be available within 12 months. PET scans that show the early stages of Alzheimer's disease by detecting beta amyloid should be widely available by next year, scientists announced yesterday.


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