Because diet impacts brain function and brain function is important to comprehension of spiritual things, we can conclude that diet impacts spiritual discernment.

Promoting a healthy lifestyle

In the United States, leading causes of disability and death are related to chronic diseases; however, being physically active, eating a healthy diet and abstaining from tobacco use have been linked to chronic disease prevention (heart.org).

It’s easier and more effective to encourage and establish healthy behaviors in younger people than trying to change established behaviors in adults (heart.org). Children and adolescents can learn and establish lifelong health behaviors when these behaviors are promoted in school. Adventist Christian education must continue to promote healthy lifestyles because these behaviors are important for lifelong health, academic achievement and spiritual growth.

Diet and exercise play a central role in memory and learning, which are important for academic achievement. Diet affects multiple brain processes through regulation of neurotransmitter pathways, synaptic transmission, membrane fluidity and signal-transduction pathways (Gomez-Pinilla, 2008), all of which are important for learning. The gut can directly stimulate molecular systems associated with synaptic plasticity and learning. In addition, gut hormones influence emotions and cognitive processes (Gomez-Pinilla, 2008). Increases in physical activity have been shown to improve academic performance (Committee on Physical Activity and Physical Education in the School Environment, 2013).

If a child has difficulties with learning or behavior, diet, exercise and sleep may be a part of the problem. Eating a diet high in sugar has been associated with reduced impulse control, anxiety and depression (Jacques, et al., 2019). There is also evidence for an association between diets high in saturated fats (butter, cake, biscuits, sausages, lunch meat, cheese, pastries, etc.) and refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour, white bread, white rice, pastries, soda, etc.) and impaired cognitive function (Francis & Stevenson, 2013).

Because diet impacts brain function and brain function is important to comprehension of spiritual things, we can conclude that diet impacts spiritual discernment. “You need clear, energetic minds, in order to appreciate the exalted character of the truth, to value the atonement, and to place the right estimate upon eternal things” (White, 1938).

Establishing healthy lifelong behaviors should start in childhood when the brain is most plastic and able to change and adapt. A famous quote by Virginia Wolf states “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Let us teach our children to dine on that which will be most healthful to the mind, body, and soul so that they may appreciate the Bread of Life, which is Jesus Christ.

 

References

  • Committee on Physical Activity and Physical Education in the School Environment; Food and Nutrition Board; Institute of Medicine; Kohl HW III, Cook HD, editors. Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2013 Oct 30. 4, Physical Activity, Fitness, and Physical Education: Effects on Academic Performance. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK201501/
  • Francis, H., & Stevenson, R. (2013). The longer-term impacts of Western diet on human cognition and the brain. Appetite63, 119–128. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2012.12.018
  • Gómez-Pinilla F. (2008). Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature reviews. Neuroscience9(7), 568–578. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn2421
  • Heart.org. (n.d.). Health Education in Schools – The Importance of Establishing Healthy Behaviors in our Nation’s Youth. Retrieved February 2, 2021 from  https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@adv/documents/downloadable/ucm_308679.pdf
  • Jacques, A., Chaaya, N., Beecher, K., Ali, S.A., Belmer, A., & Bartlett, S. (2019). The impact of sugar consumption on stress driven, emotional and addictive behaviors. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 103,178-199. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.05.021
  • White, E.G. (1938). Counsels on Diet and Foods. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association.

 

Christina Wells, MD, is the Lake Region Conference Health director