Can Fast Food Affect Students’ Test Scores?

Before you head to McDonalds for dinner again this week, listen to this! A new study from Ohio State University suggests that the amount of fast food kids eat can be linked to their school performance.

If kids reported eating at fast food restaurants frequently in fifth grade, their test scores in reading, math, and science were lower when they reached eighth grade. Their scores were approximately 20 percent lower than classmates who didn’t eat fast food fries or burgers on a regular basis, according to an article on Science Daily.

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The Surprising Health Benefits of Hugs, Including Reduced Stress

Did you know there are actually scientific benefits of hugs? According to a new study, hugging can help prevent stress and protect you from getting sick. Research from Carnegie Mellon University found that hugs are a form of social support that can protect stressed people from increased infections.

Science Daily explains, “They found that greater social support and more frequent hugs protected people from the increased susceptibility to infection associated with being stressed and resulted in less severe illness symptoms.” Essentially, showing people you care can work wonders for not only their mental health, but physical health too.

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The Power of Social Media to Teach Kids Advocacy

The Internet is an amazing thing. When we look at the impact it has on the social and emotional health of our kids, it’s easy to go negative—especially with some of the headlines out there—but if we take time to focus on the good, then they’re more likely to come to us when they need help with the bad.

One of the ways we can do that is by sharing stories with them about kids who are using the Internet to bring about big social change.

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Cigarette and Alcohol Use Among Teens Hits an All-Time Low

Every year, the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey looks at substance use among middle and high schoolers across America. This year, while illicit drug use continues to show a national decline, cigarette and alcohol use are at their lowest points since the study began in 1975.

This annual study polls between 40,000 and 50,000 students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grade from over 400 schools across the country. The results are then compiled and used to track substance abuse trends in teens.

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Teens’ Use of E-Cigarettes Continues to Grow

Since “vape” is the Oxford Dictionary’s word of 2014, this news may not be too surprising. At the same time, it’s pretty alarming. New studies show that teen use of e-cigarettes continues to rise. While some may think e-cigs are safer than regular cigarettes, these electronic devices still contain nicotine, a highly addictive chemical that can affect the developing brain. Studies also suggest e-cigarettes can be a gateway drug.

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This News About Sugar Isn’t So Sweet

While sweets are OK in moderation, new research suggests that certain types of sugars affect the brain differently. According to a study presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, fructose is worse for the brain’s reward center than glucose. In fact, fructose can even increase the brain’s desire for food and lead to overeating.

So what’s the difference between these sugars? Fructose is a simple sugar found in high-fructose corn syrup. Examples include soda, salad dressing, and processed snacks. Meanwhile, glucose is produced mainly through the breakdown of complex carbohydrates. Examples include most fruits, such as apples or pineapples.

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Setting a Tech Curfew & the Amazing Benefits of Sleep

OK, it’s settled. Teens are sleep deprived.

The American Association of Pediatrics is telling us that in order to get the 9.25 hours they need, rather than the 7.1 hours they’re getting, we’re going to have to let them sleep in.

Luckily, there are advocates on the case, like Jilly Dos Santos—check her out in the September issue of Choices—and resources for anyone who wants to join in. Mainstream media has jumped on board, and there was even a special on The National Geographic Channel last Sunday night—Sleepless in America. Could be a great one to show the class.

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Malala’s Nobel Prize Speech Proves She’s An Incredible Teen

Back in October, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. The 17-year-old education advocate shares this year’s honor with Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi. On Wednesday, Malala officially accepted the award and gave an amazing speech. While you should definitely check out the entire thing, here are a few excerpts that prove this teen is extraordinary!

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More Sleep Leads to More Happy Thoughts

In case you need extra motivation to get a good night’s sleep, consider this: the less sleep you get, the more negative thoughts fill your brain. According to new research from Binghamton University, individuals who go to bed later and get less sleep are more likely to be overwhelmed by negative thoughts. So a simple solution? If you want to be happier, get more rest. While it’s not guaranteed to fix all of your woes, it’s a great starting point.

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Who’s the Biggest Influence on Teens’ Drinking Habits?

While “peer pressure” is an ever-present force in social interactions, it may not be the peers you expect that are having the biggest influence on teens… Or at least when it comes to underage drinking. According to new research, instead of being influenced by what they believe all of the other kids are doing, teens are actually impacted the most by the decisions of their close friends. In other words, if a teen hangs out with others who drink, they’re more likely to engage in that behavior themselves. Likewise, if a teen hangs out with non-drinkers, they’re less inclined to drink, despite what a bunch of their classmates may do on the weekend.

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