FOOD & NUTRITION: Students learn some bitter truths about sugar

AN expert on stress gave Ripon Grammar School students studying food and nutrition new insight into how their diet affects mood.

Educator and coach Andrea Edmondson ran a number of interactive workshops with fourth and fifth form pupils, centred around sugar, stress and wellbeing.

Students, who took part in sugar-rich and sugar-free taste tests, discovered more about

why they crave and select high-sugar foods, what the health consequences are and how they can benefit from making small changes in their lives.

“Our modern lifestyle, with a constant stream of stress and little time to recover, is very different from our ancestors. Our modern response to stress tends to be sedentary. We think, sit, eat, drink, play video games and browse social media. This is negatively affecting our health,” explained Mrs Edmondson.

“Compounding this problem is the type of food available to us, which is increasingly high in sugar and salt. Neuroscience explains why sugar makes us feel better, and how the addiction cycle is establishedin the reward region of our brain.

“But sugar is, in fact, a hidden stressor and eating high levels of it feeds the addiction cycle as well as contributing to numerous health problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.”

Food and nutrition teacher Louise Solden said the workshops made students think beyond the confines of their GCSE coursework: “We have to study the harmful effects of sugar in our diet, but Mrs Edmondson made the connection between sugar and behaviour which students were not aware of before.”

Mrs Edmondson encouraged students to be mindful of the hidden sugars in processed foods: “The recommended daily amount is 30g, but some drinks contain more than this in one serving.”

And she advised them to move more: “Movement of any kind, including walking, dancing and sport, relieves stress. Any exercise, even a ten-minute brisk walk, can help to reduce the effects of stress.”

Mrs Edmondson, whose background is in primary education, has studied the role stress plays in learning and wellbeing, both at the University of East London and the MEHRIT Centre in Canada.

With four children of my own, including two at RGS, I see first-hand how stress affects them and their peers. My passion and expertise is in teaching young people to understand stress. Ultimately, I want to empower students to optimise their wellbeing so they can deal with the challenges of modern life in healthy ways.”

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"This was a very informative talk which enabled me to look at the effects of sugar in a different perspective, which I wasn't aware of before." Funmi Sowole 5B

"It was really interesting and eye-opening." Nick Cunningham 5B

“This was a very positive and active way of not just learning about but also understanding the effects and negative qualities of sugar." Toby Boyce 5B