Most of us probably knew that eating fast food every day isn't good for us, even before the 2004 release of the film Super Size Me, in which filmmaker Morgan Spurlock demonstrated by personal example that doing so has major health consequences. The prevalence of fast food—often high in calories, fats, sugar and salt and low in nutrients—has been blamed for the big increases in obesity in the U.S.
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Now a study reveals that eating too much fast food might make you dumber as well as fatter. The Ohio State University assistant professor of human sciences Kelly Purtell, working with University of Texas associate professor of human ecology Elizabeth Gershoff, has released a study showing that increased frequency of fast food consumption by fifth graders led to lower test scores in reading, math and science in the eighth grade.
"There’s a lot of evidence that fast-food consumption is linked to childhood obesity, but the problems don’t end there," said Purtell. "Relying too much on fast food could hurt how well children do in the classroom."
The study of 11, 740 students looked at their test scores in fifth and eighth grade and questionnaires about their food consumption that they filled out in the fifth grade. Consumption ranged from the 29 percent who had no fast food the week prior to filling out the questionnaire to the 10 percent who had it every day and another 10 percent who ate it four-six times a week.
“Fast-food consumption was quite high in these students,” said Purtell.
But their test score gains were the opposite. Children who had fast food every day or four-six times a week had notably lower gains from fifth to eighth grade than children who did not eat any fast food. Children who had fast food just one-three times per week (more than half the children participating) showed lower gains in one subject, math. The study didn't explore why this is, but other studies have shown that diets high in fat and sugar impede learning and cognitive processes.
While Purtell cautioned that the study cannot conclusively prove that eating fast food is the reason students with higher consumption showed lower academic gains, the researchers controlled for a variety of other factors, including amount of exercise the children got, what else they ate, how much TV they watched and their family's socioeconomic status.
"We’re not saying that parents should never feed their children fast food, but these results suggest fast food consumption should be limited as much as possible," said Purtell.
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They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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