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Effects of Stress on Students Diets

The Effects of Stress on Academically Advanced Students Diets

By: Paige Flanagan & Inam Alshinnawi

Central Magnet School

Effects of Stress on Students Diets


Table of Contents

Effects of Stress on Students Diets



Research Question
How does stress affect the dietary choices of academically advanced students in
comparison to the general population of teenagers?

Research Purpose
The purpose of this experiment is to create a better understanding of the relationship
between stress and diet in adolescents. Participants in this study will be Juniors and Seniors
attending Central Magnet and Juniors and Seniors who attend Siegel High School. The students
from Central Magnet will represent the academically advanced adolescents and the students from
Siegel will represent the general population.
According to the Torres & Nowson study, a study performed by two Australian scholars
in 2007, if an individual has higher levels of stress then he/she is more likely to either overeat or
undereat. Chronic overeating can result in many health complications such as obesity, arthritis,
or sleep apnea; under eating can also result in medical issues like infertility, weaker bones, or
even arrhythmia. The Relationship between Intelligence and Anxiety study, designed by Jeremy
Coplan et al. at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, has also shown that a higher IQ may have a

Effects of Stress on Students Diets


direct correlation to higher stress levels, suggesting that the more intelligent a person, the higher
their odds of feeling stressed (2012). This new study will determine if students with higher
overall IQs are more stressed than students that have average IQs. The survey will also
determine what students eat when they are stressed and how often they feel stressed. The results
of our study will be significant because the healthier children are, the better they will perform in
school. A correlation between better diet and better grades was exhibited in the Diet Quality and
Academic Performance Study (Florence, Asbridge, and Veugelers, 2008). The diet quality study
was conducted by a group of doctors and was published in the Journal of School Health in 2008.
The study, conducted on 5,000 children living in Alberta, Canada, found that the healthier a
students diet, the better chance they had of passing a standardized literacy test. It has also been
concluded that the better a student a does in school the healthier they will be later in life. The
relationship between better high school performance and a healthier, more productive life has
been shown in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, a study funded by the United States National
Institute on Aging (Herd, Carr, and Roan, 2014). The Wisconsin Study consists of six surveys
given to the graduating class of 1957 asking questions on subjects such as family, work, and
health. The study discovered that the higher a participant's high school rank was, the lower the
participants likelihood of becoming ill was as they approached retirement age. So, if a student
has better nutrition then they will perform better in school which will lead them to live healthier
lives, overall.
One of the possible outcomes of this study is finding there is no difference between
higher IQ students stress and food choices and the average students stress and food choices. If

Effects of Stress on Students Diets


there is no significant difference between the students answers, then it could be concluded that a
factor other than intelligence and workload is impacting stress levels. Another possible result
could be there is a significant difference between stress levels in higher IQ students and average
students. A feasible response to the latter theorized result could be instating programs within
academically advanced schools to prevent an overwhelming amount of stress on students.

Background Information
Stress can be very harmful to the bodys physical health, especially a still developing
body. When the body is stressed, muscles tense up, veins dilate, epinephrine and cortisol, the
stress hormones, are produced. Stress can change the chemical balances in the body causing
harmful side effects (Tovian et al., 2016). According to the DANA Foundation, ...the hormones
responsible for stress, sex, and metabolism affect the brain; they can alter the structure of
neurons and their connections, influence behavior and even change the hormonal processes
themselves. For example, chronic stress can increase anxiety and decrease memory and cognitive
flexibility (McEwen, 2011). It has also been found that intelligence and stress can lead to a
reduction of metabolic substrate in the subcortical white matter. If an adolescent experiences
stress during the brains formative years, the negative effects can be long-term (McEwen, 2011).
These side effects of stress on the brain and body could cause poor health as well as poor
academic performance due to increase in blood pressure, heart rate and a decrease in brain
function. In addition, studies have shown that stress can lead to unhealthy food choices, such as

Effects of Stress on Students Diets


overeating or undereating (Torres & Nowson 2007). Individuals who are stressed also tend to eat
more sweet, high-fat foods and energy dense meals compared to people who are not stressed
(Oliver, Wardle, & Gibson, 2000). It was also found that in adolescents, females are more likely
to indulge stress-related eating behaviors than males (Jskelinen et al. 2014). Along with
unhealthy dietary habits, stress can also cause adolescents to engage in other negative health
behaviors, such as tobacco use, alcohol use, and less sleep.
Surveys have shown that stress levels in teens are higher than what is considered normal.
Teen stress levels also exceeded adults levels (Tovian et al., 2016). According to the survey
given by the American Psychological Association, eighty-three percent of teens report school as
a significant source of stress (Tovian et al., 2016). Schools that are more academically
competitive tend to promote higher stress levels (Leonard et al., 2015). Those with higher IQs
also tend to have higher stress levels compared to the average person (Coplan et al., 2012). At an
FFacademically advanced school, students tend to have higher IQs, more assignments, and more
deadlines making their stress levels above average. The high stress levels have great negative
potential impact on health. Stress surveys show that stress affects sleep, exercise, and eating,
while teens are reported as having trouble coping with stress (Tovian et al., 2016).
In addition to stress, poor nutrition can have adverse effects on health. According to the
Center for Disease Control, obesity can be an effect of poor nutrition coupled with lack of
exercise. Obesity can cause diabetes, and lead to breathing problems, high blood pressure, and
increased risk of heart disease. Another severe side effect of poor nutrition can be
atherosclerosis, which is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is usually

Effects of Stress on Students Diets


the cause of obesity, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise, and it can lead to heart attack, stroke,
and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, poor nutrition can lead to a decrease in brain function.
Brains need important vitamins, such as vitamin C, B, E, and D and omega-3 fatty acids, to
operate at their top capacity. A diet high in sugar is especially harmful to the brain and body as it
significantly decreases bloods vitamin E supply. Exercise is also a key factor to keeping the
brain and body healthy; it increases the content of oxygen-enriched blood and increases blood
flow to the brain. An individual that does not exercise will not experience these benefits. Overall,
poor nutrition has adverse effects on health (CDC, 2010).
A study by Wilder Research shows that good nutrition in schools has a positive effect on
academic performance. When the school instituted a breakfast program, students had better
attendance, improved behavior and concentration, and better academic performance (Stuber,
2014). Additionally, The Diet Quality and Academic Performance Study has shown that a
healthy diet leads to better academic performance (Florence, Asbridge, and Veugelers, 2008).
Overall, stress and poor nutrition combined can lead to poor health and poor academic

Based on our research we have established that higher levels of stress cause less
healthful eating since it makes organisms more likely to over/under-eat (Torres & Nowson
2007). Since students in a magnet school tend to have a higher IQ, in comparison to the general
public, and it has been found that intelligence and worry both involve a reduction of metabolic

Effects of Stress on Students Diets


substrate in the subcortical white matter (Coplan et al., 2012). This reduction suggests a
correlation between intelligence and stress; consequently, if students are more intelligent then
they will have a higher likelihood of being stressed. Therefore, it is expected that students in a
magnet school will eat less healthy than students attending a non-academic high school because
the magnet school students will have higher IQs and thus higher levels of stress.

Apparatus and Materials
The participants in this study were students attending a magnet high school and a
non-magnet high school. Of these students freshman (adolescents 15-16 years old, on average) ,
sophomores (adolescents 14-15 years old), juniors (adolescents 16-17 years old, on average), and
seniors (adolescents 17-18 years old, on average) were surveyed.
In order to elicit the desired responses, a survey was made and distributed. The
participants were asked what school they attended in order to differentiate which group they
were a part of. Participants were also asked how often they felt stressed, how intense their stress
usually was, and what types of foods they ate when they felt stressed.
The Microsoft Excel Program was used to organize the data collected. The information
collected was entered into the google form then transferred into graphs.


Effects of Stress on Students Diets


A survey was created after questions on similar surveys were researched along with the
overall topic. After the survey questions were created they were transferred to a google form
where they were reviewed for a final time and sent to the principal of the magnet high school for
approval. He then distributed it to students. After the principal received the survey, it was sent to
the principal of the non-magnet high school for approval as well. Before the survey was
distributed to students an email was sent to parents/guardians of students so they could opt out
for their child. Results were then submitted by students and the results were organized into an
excel spreadsheet. After the results were organized, they were compared and transferred into

Effects of Stress on Students Diets


Coplan, J. D., Hodulik, S., Mathew, S. J., Mao, X., Hof, P. R., Gorman, J. M., & Shungu, D. C.
(2012). The relationship between intelligence and anxiety: An association with
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Florence, M. D., Asbridge, M., & Veugelers, P. J. (2008). Diet Quality and Academic
Performance. Journal of School Health, 78(4), 209-215.
Health Effects of Limited Access to Healthy Food: Obesity, Chronic Disease, and Poor
Nutrition. (2010, June 03). Retrieved November 18, 2016, from
Herd, Pamela, Deborah Carr, and Carol Roan. (2014) "Cohort Profile: Wisconsin Longitudinal
Study (WLS)." International Journal of Epidemiology 43:34-41 PMCID: PMC3937969
Jskelinen, A., Nevanper, N., Remes, J., Rahkonen, F., Jrvelin, M., & Laitinen, J. (2014,
April 7). Stress-related eating, obesity and associated behavioural traits in adolescents: A
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Effects of Stress on Students Diets


Leonard, N. R., Gwadz, M. V., Ritchie, A., Linick, J. L., Cleland, C. M., Elliott, L., & Grethel,
M. (2015). A multi-method exploratory study of stress, coping, and substance use among
high school youth in private schools. Frontiers in Psychology Front. Psychol., 6.
McEwen, B. S., PhD. (2011, March 1). Publications. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from
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Psychosomatic Medicine, 62(6), 853-865. doi:10.1097/00006842-200011000-00016
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