Better Diet Quality may Improve Cognition in Children

Author: Eero Haapala

A recent Finnish study shows that better diet quality is related to better cognitive performance among 6–8 year old children. The results published in the British Journal of Nutrition are part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland. The study investigated the relationships of the Baltic Sea type and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) dietary patterns to cognition in a population based sample of 428 children aged 6–8 years. Stricter adherence to the Baltic Sea type and the DASH dietary patterns, indicated by a higher consumption of vegetables, fruit and berries, fish, whole grain products, and a lower consumption of red meat, was associated with better cognitive performance. Of the components of these dietary patterns particularly higher consumption of vegetables, fruit and berries and fish and a lower consumption of red meat was related to better cognition. The associations of dietary patterns with cognition were stronger in boys than in girls. In conclusion, a poorer diet quality was associated with worse cognition in children and the relationship was stronger in boys than in girls.

This article is freely available for two weeks via the following link:

Source: Better Diet Quality may Improve Cognition in Children « Journals in the News « Cambridge Journals Blog


Do Video Games Cause Violent Behavior? More Then 200 Academics Think Not

The APA recently released findings that stated there while there was not a “single” cause for aggression; violent video games can play a role. The APA set up a team to go over studies and papers that were published on the subject between 2005 and 2013.

The paper reports, “The research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behaviour, aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect, and decreases in pro-social behaviour, empathy and sensitivity to aggression.”


The research for the paper was done primariliy though meta-analysis. It looked at the results of a number, hundreds, of studies and tried to find patterns and parallels. “While there is some variation among the individual studies, a strong and consistent general pattern has emerged from many years of research that provides confidence in our general conclusions,” said task force chairman Mark Appelbaum.

However, the research team’s findings have not been met with open arms. A group of more than 200 academics made up of “media scholars, psychologists and criminologists” have released an open letter to the APA opposing the findings. They suggest that the methodology of the study is inherently unsound. Much of the surveyed papers and studies that the APA used have not been peer reviewed, the open letter criticizes the methodology of the taskforce’s study and findings.

The notion that violent video games may cause aggression is a strongly contested one. It has historically been a scapegoat for violent behavior particularly in adolescents and teens. And while people don’t deny an effect of games, many deny the correlation between violent video games and outright violence:

“I fully acknowledge that exposure to repeated violence may have short-term effects – you would be a fool to deny that – but the long-term consequences of crime and actual violent behaviour, there is just no evidence linking violent video games with that,” says Dr Mark Coulson, one of the signatories of the letter told BBC. “If you play three hours of Call of Duty you might feel a little bit pumped, but you are not going to go out and mug someone.”

The rating system for video games can also be tricky. The US goes by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and begins with “eC” (Early Childhood) and progresses to “AO” (Adults 18+ Only). The rating system however has been controversial from the beginning with critics saying that the ESRB has gotten more lax on their “M” (Mature) rating and the games have gotten progressively more violent without receiving an AO rating.

In the letter to the APA the writers acknowledged that youth violence is currently “at a 40-year low” and that the “statistical data are simply not bearing out this concern and should not be ignored.”

The letter ends with a striking call for better data and research, “Policy statements based on inconsistent and weak evidence are bad policy and over the long run do more harm than good, hurting the credibility of the science of psychology.” With an overwhelming number of signatories, their message should not be ignored.

Community social cohesion may help improve child and adolescent mental health and behaviour

Have you ever borrowed a cup of sugar from a neighbour? Would you trust them to keep an eye on your child while playing outside? New research indicates that the degree of social cohesion, or ‘neighbourliness’, of a community may have long-term consequences for children’s mental health and social adjustment.

The neighbourhood environment has well-documented effects on individual health and wellbeing, including mental health. Living in an unsafe or unstable neighbourhood can lead to adverse health outcomes including depression, anxiety, and substance use. On the other hand, cohesive neighbourhoods (those which provide social support, trust, and a sense of community among residents) are thought to contribute positively to residents’ mental health.

In a new study published in Psychological Medicine, researchers at the University of Ottawa and University College London examined patterns of neighbourhood cohesion across childhood (from toddlerhood to preadolescence), and linked these patterns to several different mental health and behavioural outcomes in early adolescence (age 12-15).

Living in low-cohesion neighbourhoods throughout childhood, they found, was associated with increased anxious and depressive symptoms, as well as greater social aggression (e.g., malicious gossip, excluding peers) in adolescence. Declining neighbourhood cohesion from early to late childhood was associated with greater symptoms of hyperactivity, whereas improvements in neighbourhood cohesion were associated with reduced hyperactivity and social aggression. Those in highly cohesive neighbourhoods in early childhood were more likely to engage in prosocial behaviour.

These results suggest that efforts to improve community social cohesion may help improve child and adolescent mental health and behaviour. Higher social cohesion may increase a child’s level of interaction with teachers and other adults in the community, as well as with other neighbourhood children, all of which may contribute to advances in social and emotional development.

The full paper, published in Psychological Medicine, “Trajectories of childhood neighbourhood cohesion and adolescent mental health: evidence from a national Canadian cohort” by M. Kingsbury, J. B. Kirkbride, S. E. McMartin, M. E. Wickham, M. Weeks and I. Colman is can be viewed here free of charge until 31st August 2015 .

The importance of Youth Mental Health

young children jumping_2

Find out the Guest Editors’ (Mary Cannon and John Lyne) response to questions about youth mental health following a recent special issue in Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine.

What is Youth Mental Health?

Youth Mental Health refers to mental health among adolescents and young adults. The time period covered by the term “youth mental health” typically ranges between 15-25 years of age though some would advocate that this should extend from 12-30 years. Youth mental health focuses on the well-being of young people, and aims to ensure that young people transition between childhood and adulthood with positive mental health. With this in mind a recently published issue of the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine provided a focus on mental health during this youth phase of people’s lives.

Why highlight the Youth Mental Health agenda?

It is now recognised that many so-called “adult” mental health difficulties have their origins during adolescence and young adulthood. An illness prevention focus has been very effective in reducing the prevalence of some illnesses, such as heart attacks and cancers, however similar strategies have lagged behind in the field of mental health. Appropriate help for young people early in their lives has the potential to reduce later mental health morbidity. However, despite the high levels of mental health issues among young people, services for this age-group remain fragmented and difficult to access.  The delivery of tailored youth-friendly services could help address this need and is a particular focus of youth mental health advocates.

Why publish this special issue now?

This Special Issue follows on from the adoption of Youth Mental Health as the official annual theme by the College of Psychiatry of Ireland in 2013. Several annual Youth Mental Health Research conferences have been held in Ireland since 2011, establishing Ireland as one of the leading international countries in the field of youth mental health. This special issue aims to harness the large amount of research activity in this area in Ireland and internationally.

What does the issue include?

Scientific papers were contributed by several high profile national and international researchers. New data papers are included which report the prevalence of mental disorders among young Irish adults. Risk and protective factors for mental illness in young people and the importance of early intervention in psychosis and bipolar disorder are also addressed.  Editorials and perspective pieces by experts in the field address the challenges in providing seamless care during transition from childhood to adulthood, and give examples of youth services developed in United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland. Overall this special issue brings together high quality research which highlights that youth mental health should be prioritised on health policy agendas.


Read the full contents of the special issue free of charge here for a limited time period

If you are using a mobile device please click here to view the issue


Text messaging as a form of smoking support


The Journal of Smoking Cessation has published a new review of evidence that texting can be integrated in to smoking cessation programmes, which can help to maintain instant contact with clients and provide useful guidance for relapse prevention.

Tobacco use, primarily from cigarette smoking, is the leading cause of preventable deaths worldwide, and is associated with chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders, and various types of cancers, including lung, oral cavity, larynx, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, colorectal, bladder and kidney.

Despite the harm and costs tobacco use causes, there have been great efforts related to tobacco control in recent decades. There have been great strides in influencing social norms to prevent the initiation of tobacco use among adults and youth, promote cessation efforts, and reduce exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. Such smoking-control strategies include smoke-free laws, counter-advertising campaigns, and a hike in tobacco excise taxes, which have all contributed to a reduction in smoking prevalence. At the individual level, access to smoking cessation facilities and improvement in treatments of smoking dependence has provided smokers, as well as doctors and other health professionals, with more resources to make smoking cessation programs more customisable and effective.

Cigarettes are currently marketed more heavily towards adolescents and young adults. In this context, texting may be considered as an innovative intervention strategy to help prevent smoking initiation among the adolescent population and aid in smoking cessation and relapse prevention efforts. Texting is an act of communicating through the interchange of brief messages between mobile (cell) phones. With advances in mobile technology and the popularity of mobile cell phones, texting has even become the primary source of communication among some groups, but especially for adolescents and young adults. More than 75% of teenagers text, sending on average 60 texts per day. Texting has also been utilised as an intervention strategy for other health-related conditions such as asthma medication adherence, improve compliance for self-care with heart failure patients, eating disorders, weight loss, and binge drinking.

Texting is advantageous for health promotion efforts since it is low cost and widely accessible, almost all phones have the ability to send and receive texts, texting does not require a great amount of skills, text messages can be received at convenience, and will even be received at a later time in the event the phone is shut off.

Nine studies were reviewed for this article, five were texting-only interventions and four also involved web-based components that offered educational and abstinence tools. All the studies involved in this review reported that texting appeared to be an effective method for promoting smoking cessation and preventing relapse. Texting was also well received by study participants.

The review also highlights that much more research is needed in this area, for example to assess whether this approach can target smokers who are not already motivated to quit, or investigating whether a combination of social networks with texting to see if this will help to increase effectiveness for smoking cessation and relapse prevention.

Read the article in full here

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