Junk food, synonymous with sleep problems in teens

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Frequent consumption of sugary sodas and "junk food" has been linked to poor sleep quality, according to a new study of more than 175,000 teens.

Eat poorly or sleep well, you have to choose. In a new study, published December 21 in the journal EClinical Medicine, researchers from the University of Queensland (Australia) report having observed an association between regular consumption of junk food in adolescents and poor quality of sleep.

"This is the first study to examine unhealthy diets and stress-related sleep disorders globally among high school students in 64 countries," said Dr. Asaduzzaman Khan, senior author of the study.

The data was collected from surveys conducted by the World Health Organization between 2009 and 2016. These covered 175,261 adolescents aged 12-15 years in 64 low-, middle- and high-income countries. Southeast Asia, Africa, South America and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Overall, 7.5% of teens reported trouble sleeping in the past 12 months. Teens who drank sugary sodas 3 times a day were more than 50% more likely to report sleep problems than those who drank less than once a day. As for junk food, consuming four or more times per week was associated with a 50-55% higher risk of sleep disturbances compared to consuming junk food once a week or less.

"Sleep disorders have increased with more frequent consumption of soft drinks, which often contain caffeine, and / or fast food, foods that are traditionally high in energy and low in nutrients. Frequent consumption of soft drinks more than three times a day daytime and fast food more than four days a week were significantly associated with sleep disturbances in all countries except low-income countries, "the researchers wrote.

For Dr. Khan, although they only establish a correlation, these results are all the more worrying since poor quality of sleep has a negative impact on the general well-being of adolescents and on their cognitive development.

"Creating school environments that limit access to soft drinks and fast food and introducing a sugar tax to reduce soft drink sales could be beneficial," suggests the researcher. "The family can also play a decisive role in promoting healthy eating, because the adoption and maintenance of childrens eating behaviors are influenced by their family environment," he adds as well.

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