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A new study by public health experts out of Wales in Britain has revealed evidence to support a direct and positive link between the quality of a child’s breakfast and their school performance.

Looking at 5,000 children, aged 9 to 11, from over 100 schools, researchers from Cardiff University studied the link between breakfast consumption and exam grades attained in Teacher Assessments 6-18 months later.

Participants were asked to list all food and drink they consumed within just over a 24-hour period, including two breakfasts in total, complete with times for when the food and drink was taken.
Results showed that not only did breakfast have a positive effect on academic achievements, with pupils who consumed breakfast up to twice as likely to attain an above average performance than those who skipped breakfast, but that the quality of the breakfast also played an important role, with pupils who reported consuming sweets, crisps, and other unhealthy items (1 in 5 of the total participants) showing no improvement in educational achievement.

Children who ate breakfast did better in school than kids who skipped the meal.

The study, which was headed up by Hannah Littlecroft from Cardiff University’s Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPher), was published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

Quick ways to power up your child’s breakfast with added nutrition

The results support previous studies that show a positive link between eating breakfast and performance. A 2005 US study by Tufts University, published in the journal Physiology And Behaviour, also found positive links between breakfast consumption and breakfast quality and school performance.

Those who skipped breakfast performed the worst in that study’s series of tests, and those who ate a healthier breakfast of whole-grain cereal and milk performed better than those who ate an unhealthier low-fibre, high-sugar cereal with milk. The study also found a positive link between breakfast consumption and school attendance and classroom behaviour, both of which are also linked to better school performance.

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) recommends avoiding a breakfast that is high in fat, sugar, and salt, and instead opting for a combination of the following for a healthy, balanced breakfast:

Fruit and vegetables: Fruit and vegetables that are fresh, tinned, or frozen can be good for you. (Just be careful of things like tinned peaches in syrup as these are higher in sugar.)

Starchy foods: Bread (especially wholemeal), rice and cereals (especially wholegrain) that are lower-sugar and lower-salt

Milk and dairy: Cheese, low-fat yoghurt and lower-fat milk

Non-dairy protein
: meat, fish, eggs, beans and unsalted nuts. – AFP Relaxnews

Helping your child manage stress

Stress is not a uniquely adult experience – even young children can be subject to all kinds of stress, such as parental expectations to perform well in academic and non-academic activities.

There is simply no way to eliminate stress, and neither should it be viewed in a completely negative light. After all, it is only in adversity that your child will be able to grow and develop.

The key is to be on hand to support her when she needs you, and to know when to let her work things out on her own.

As your child expands her social sphere, she will come into contact with more people, and she may be exposed to more situations that she may find stressful.

Depending on how your child reacts to it, stress can be either positive or negative.

Positive stress provides your child with the energy or motivation to do better, but negative stress will have the opposite effect.

Remember, every child handles stress differently. For instance, one child may be excited by a ride on a rollercoaster while another may break down and refuse to go on the ride.

Signs of stress

Your child may not know when she is feeling stressed, and even if she does, she may not be able to adequately convey her feelings of stress or frustration to you.

As parents, you will need to be alert to changes in her behaviour that come about as a result of stress. The most common signs include:

• Irritability or moodiness.

• Withdrawal from activities that she used to enjoy.

• Fretting or worrying more than usual.

• Abrupt behavioural changes where she becomes more clingy/withdrawn, quieter/more outspoken, aggressive or any other departure from her usual behaviour.

• More physical complaints such as recurrent headaches/stomach aches, change in appetite, bedwetting.

• The presence of physical complaints in the absence of illness.

Take note that negative behaviour does not necessarily mean that she is facing excessive stress. It is however, a clear indication that there is something wrong.

Should you see any such behaviour emerging, it means you need to pay attention and come up with an appropriate response to her behaviour.

How parents can help

Regardless of the cause, stress can build up over time, leading to your child displaying inappropriate and unwanted behaviours.

This may make it difficult for them to focus on learning, or even manifest as health problems.

As a parent, you need to keep track of her behaviour to pinpoint the cause(s) of her stress.

By reviewing recent events, you can take appropriate measures to help your child. Here is what you can do to help your child to cope:

• Encourage her to use positivity – it’s easy for your child to repeat negative thoughts to herself.

Teach her to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

Children have a tendency to mimic adults, so take care not to verbalise negative self-comments in front of her such as “I’m such an idiot for misplacing my keys!”

You may be surprised by how much negative self-talk you use, so make it a point to practise positive self-talk at every opportunity.

• Teach her to take small, logical steps – chances are your child will be stressed whenever she has to perform a task.

Guide her by teaching her how to break them down into smaller and more easily-managed steps. Taking baby steps will help her overcome any fears she may have about her ability to start or complete a task.

• Focus on her efforts rather than the results – just remember that no one is perfect. Anxiety and worry are just some of the feelings that she may feel. At times like this, you should be more supportive and emphasise that everyone makes mistakes, and that it is a part of life.

This is an excellent opportunity to teach her that it is what she does next that counts, i.e. admitting a mistake and taking the appropriate corrective action.

• Let her take some time out – all work and no play makes Jill a dull girl – everyone needs a little break from the daily grind, even children. Many children are often subjected to not only academic and extracurricular activities in school, but also to supplementary classes out of school hours and during weekends.Keep an eye on her and whenever she seems stressed or flustered, it is time for a break from her routine. Find activities that you know she enjoys, or even new ones, which can be relaxing.

• Teach her how to stay calm and focused – help her find a way to centre herself and keep calm, like listening to music, taking a walk, jogging, yoga or anything positive that works. Do try to avoid depending on electronic gadgets as the disadvantages will probably outweigh the benefits.

Not all stress is bad

Despite the negative connotations of stress, moderate amounts can actually be good.

It serves as a form of motivation that will keep your child striving for excellence in whatever she embarks on.

The key to preventing stress from overwhelming her is in successfully managing her response to stress. You will find that this is a very useful skill that will serve her well into her adulthood. Lastly, if you have done every-thing you can, yet your child’s stress levels still continue to be a major concern, seek the services of a trained professional such as a paediatrician, a psychologist or a child psychiatrist, if need be.

Dr Rajini Sarvananthan is a developmental paediatrician. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. This article is also supported by an educational grant from KidZania Kuala Lumpur. For further information, visit www.mypositiveparenting.org. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Source: The Star (www.thestar.com.my)

Yoga lessons at pre-school can help build self-discipline

KLANG: Yoga lessons should be taught from the pre-school level to develop self-discipline among children, besides honing their physical and moral abilities at an early stage, said a yoga practitioner from Klang.

The Malaysia Pranava Yoga Therapy Centre (MPYTC) founder and president, Dr M.Raajamanikam, 79, said yoga lessons of about 20 minutes a day could be taught to pre-school children starting from the age of three during their outdoor activities.

“Teaching yoga to young children can help the nation produce good citizens, besides curbing them from engaging in any crime-related activities when they become older.

“Through the correct method of yoga, children can see drastic changes, both in their mental and physical abilities,” he told Bernama.

Raajamanikam, who has been a yoga practitioner for almost 45 years, also urged the Health Ministry to set up a special room for yoga practitioners at each hospital to help treat patients who suffer from critical or chronic diseases.

Raajamanikam, who is the recipient of the Malaysian Yoga Sports Association’s ‘Life Time Achievement Award’, said more people were now aware of the benefits of yoga ever since June 21 was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Dec 11, 2014.

The idea of International Day of Yoga was proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the UNGA, calling yoga “a holistic approach to health and well- being and to finding the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature.”

Yoga, originally performed in religious rituals in India 10,000 years ago, had evolved into a form of exercise to relax not just the body, but the mind as well.

Raajamanikam said yoga, if practised constantly, could help prevent or relieve some common diseases, mainly asthma, sinus problem, constipation, stomach problems and even diabetes.

“We have more than eight million yoga asanas (postures). Each of these positions is said to be specifically useful for one particular problem related to our body,” said the yoga guru.-- BERNAMA

Source: New Straits Times Online (www.nst.com.my)


Boost your brain health by eating a high fat/low carb diet

A team of researchers have found that a high fat/low carb ketogenic diet, as favoured by body-builders, may be effective in treating schizophrenia.

The ketogenic diet, which is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, has most recently become popular with bodybuilders for weight loss; however, it has been used since the 1920s to manage epilepsy in children.

A team from James Cook University, Australia have now investigated the diet for its possible effectiveness in treating and managing schizophrenia.

The results of their study, published in the journal Schizophrenia Research, showed that feeding mice a ketogenic diet led to fewer animal behaviours that resemble schizophrenia. The mice also weighed less and had lower blood glucose levels than mice fed a normal diet.

The team believes that the diet may be effective because a ketogenic diet provides an alternative energy source for the brain, which could help neurotransmission and improve the neurobiological processes that underlie schizophrenia.

Lead author of the study, Zoltan Sarnyai, commented on the results saying that a “Ketogenic diet provides an alternative source of energy to the brain through fatty acids. Furthermore, since this diet is very low in carbohydrates, almost all the energy needs of the cells comes from breaking down fat (fatty acids) as opposed to glucose. This can circumvent the classic glucose metabolic pathways that maybe impaired in the disease.”

In addition, the diet could increase levels of the brain chemical Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), with low levels known to be a factor in various anxiety disorders, and possibly also an underlying factor in schizophrenia. Increased levels of GABA could also help to normalise the symptoms of schizophrenia, and is something that Professor Sarnyai is keen to investigate further.

A ketogenic diet for humans would consist of high-fat food sources such as butter, cheese, salmon, so most of the person’s energy would come from fat. If prescribed to a patient, Professor Sarnyai says, “Initially it would be used in addition to medication in an in-patient setting where the patient’s diet could be controlled.”

And if the research is applied to humans, it may have secondary benefits in addition to treating schizophrenia. “It’s another advantage that it works against the weight gain, cardiovascular issues and type 2 diabetes we see as common side-effects of drugs given to control schizophrenia,” says Sarnyai.

The team is now going to research the diet further, with the possibility of a clinical trial.

Schizophrenia is a chronic and disabling mental illness that, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Medications are available to treat and manage the disorder, but can come with unpleasant side effects, and there is currently no known cure.

Research published earlier this year found that omega-3, the fatty acid found in food such as oily fish, as well as other high-fat foods such as walnuts, may help to prevent the onset of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

The study gave young people who were at a very high risk of developing a psychotic disorder omega-3 supplements for a 12- week period.

The results, published in the journal Nature Communications, showed that they were less likely to develop a disorder for up to 7 years after taking the omega-3 when compared to a placebo group. However, the team also cautioned that more research is needed to replicate their findings, which used a relatively small group of 81 participants. – AFP Relaxnews

Source: The Star (www.thestar.com.my)

Hugging your child is more important than you know

Being affectionate and supportive to your children could affect their development in the long term says research from the University of Notre Dame in the US.

University of Notre Dame professor of psychology Darcia Narvaez believes that our childhood experiences need to be in line with our evolved needs – the characteristics of parenting used by our distant ancestors but are uncommon today – in order to lead to better developed adults

These characteristics include:


  • Soothing
  • Naturalistic perinatal experiences
  • Responsiveness to a baby’s needs including sensitivity to the signals of the baby before the baby cries
  • Constant physical presence with plenty of affectionate touch
  • Extensive breastfeeding
  • Playful interactions with caregivers and friends, and a community of affectionate, mindful caregivers.


To research her theory Narvaez and colleagues questioned over 600 adults on their childhood experiences, asking how much physical affection they received as children, did they play freely outside and inside the home, did they do things as a family inside and outside the home, and did they feel supported by parents.

The adults who reported receiving more of these parenting practices in their childhood showed less depression and anxiety, more compassion, and a greater ability to look at things from another’s perspective as adults.

However adults who reported less of these parenting practices in their childhood showed poorer mental health, more distress in social situations, and were less able to take another’s point of view.

“Our research shows that when we don’t provide children with what they evolved to need, they turn into adults with decreased social and moral capacities,” says Narvaez. “With toxic stress in childhood, the good stuff doesn’t get a chance to grow and you become stress reactive. It’s hard to be compassionate when you are focused on yourself. We can see adults all around us who were traumatized or undercared for at critical times.”

Narvaez’s previous research also supports the results of this current study.

These previous studies, which included several hundred participants in each sample and included an observational study looking at the parenting practices of parents of three-year-olds, a longitudinal study of a possible link between parenting practices and child development in a national child abuse prevention project, and a comparison study of parenting practices between mothers in the US and China, all supported Narvaez’s theory that parenting practices that were common in foraging hunter-gatherer societies result in improved child development.

The children who experienced more of these parenting approaches showed better mental health, greater empathy, more self-control, and a higher level of intelligence. – AFP Relaxnews

Source: The Star (www.thestar.com.my)

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