Skip Content

Round Table Summary

29th Apr 2016

About the Round Table

Drawing together scientists and practitioners and other partners, IFBB held a round table in March 2016 to identify consensus and priorities for school-aged students and teachers. We will disseminate the findings of this meeting widely to partners and influencers, to raise awareness of the crucial role of nutrition in the development and maintenance of healthy brains. It is our hope that this awareness will become part of the common currency of health knowledge and practice.

Introduction

Dietary change has not only brought with it obesity and consequently cardiovascular diseases, it has also impacted brain development, growth and function. We are now at a stage where there needs to be a ‘mind change’ in the way we view food and nutrition. It is extremely important to target children and teachers in order to improve the eating behaviours of our younger generations.

What are the most important facts that children and teachers should know about nutrition for a healthy brain in order to provide accurate nutrition and health messages for this target group?

Key Findings

  • It is essential that young people are empowered with knowledge about good food choices for the health of their own brain and their future children’s brains.
  • Diet has the greatest impact on the brain during pregnancy whilst the brain is developing.
  • The most important nutrients for a healthy brain are Vitamins A, B, C, D, Iodine, Iron, Zinc, Selenium, DHA and EPA.
  • Nutrition needs to have a more prominent place in the national curriculum.
  • The Round Table identified a real problem in ensuring children get the correct nutrition in school meals.
  • Children need to eat breakfast in order that they are adequately fuelled for the day.
  • Dietary interventions during the school day can have great impact.
  • Mental ill health costs the UK annually more than cancer and cardiovascular disease combined.
  • We also need to engage critically with dietary interventions.

Discussion Summary

  • It is essential that young people are empowered with knowledge about good food choices for the health of their own brain and their future children’s brains.

The culture of food has changed drastically over the last century and despite the vast sums of money spent on the production of food our diet, particularly those elements needed to develop and sustain healthy brains, is worsening.

  • Diet has the greatest impact on the brain during pregnancy whilst the brain is developing.

It is therefore imperative that the next generation of parents, understand the necessity of a nutritious diet and the impact on the brain of deficiencies.

  • The most important nutrients for a healthy brain are Vitamins A, B, C, D, Iodine, Iron, Zinc, Selenium, DHA and EPA.

A well-balanced diet for general health has the full range of nutrients but this list relates specifically to brain health.

It is important to note that people eat foods and not micronutrients on their own, so advice needs to look at well-balanced meals rather than just focussing on specific nutrients.

  • Nutrition needs to have a more prominent place in the national curriculum.

It is crucial that we engage children as much as possible and make learning about food interactive. Engaging teachers and head teachers about the contribution of nutrition to the well-being of children is vital. We must equip teachers with the skills and confidence to teach nutrition properly in schools.

One major concern is that the curriculum is too vague and doesn’t recommend an amount of time to be spent teaching nutrition. If we are able to teach messages about good nutrition in early life, then these habits can then be adopted and continued into adolescence.

Children in primary schools have less choice about the foods that they eat but once they reach teenage years they make their own dietary choices. It is therefore essential that they are equipped with the knowledge to make informed food choices.

The broadcast media carry programmes dedicated to health, food and cookery which command large audiences. There is a thirst for knowledge about cooking and food teachers can build on this interest and enthusiasm to educate about nutrition. Students must learn how to prepare simple meals and also how to shop in a cost-effective and economic way to ensure that the healthy eating messages taught are affordable and accessible to everyone.

  • The Round Table identified a real problem in ensuring children get the correct nutrition in school meals.

Even if the menu is well balanced children may not be choosing the correct range of foods and may also not eat all of the food on their plates. One solution could be to include foods enriched with essential nutrients within the school menu in order increase the likelihood of children receiving adequate nutrition throughout the school day. At present such foods are far too expensive to include in school meals. We should therefore look at ways to reduce costs in the production of enriched foods as they may help to address the nutrient deficit that some children are facing.

Another difficulty that schools face is that the uptake of their meals needs to be high in order to make providing school meals sustainable. The child’s preference therefore drives the menu and less popular dishes such as fish tend to be served less frequently.

  • Children need to eat breakfast in order that they are adequately fuelled for the day.

Breakfast clubs are a great opportunity to ensure that children are eating a healthy breakfast but not all schools provide them and the varying price can make it unaffordable to some students. Schools are also limited by their cooking facilities as not all schools have kitchens and some don’t allow breakfast clubs to use the kitchens that they do have.

  • Dietary interventions during the school day can have great impact.

Since the school food guidelines stipulated that dairy has to be provided once per day this has improved calcium intake along with other nutrients.

As evidenced by the Robert Clack School study.

  • Mental ill health costs the UK annually more than cancer and cardiovascular disease combined.

We must act now. It is not only important that we improve education within schools, but it is also important that we engage with the food industry. We need to provide helpful advice to food manufacturers about balancing nutrition properly in foods. Providing food companies with expert advice could enable them to alter the nutritional composition of their foods in order that they are better balanced for promoting good health. A huge deal of money has been invested into the food system so we need to engage with the food industry and encourage food manufactures to take into account the nutritional content of foods that are being produced.

  • We also need to engage critically with dietary interventions.

We need to explore the magnitude of the impact that these interventions will have on people’s lives and consider whether other, non-dietary interventions might have a greater and more economically viable impact.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close