Students skipping meals can lead to fatigue
With numerous classes, work commitments, and extracurricular activities, compounded by the notorious Los Angeles traffic, some college students find it hard to fit a meal — notably breakfast or lunch — into their busy schedules.
“I leave my house extra early and all I eat is a yogurt, and then I have a chewy bar after one of my classes,” says Santa Monica College student Keana Garcia.
Garcia adds that she does not eat again until she returns home in the evening. Then, if she feels hungry, she says she will drink water.
"If you keep drinking liquids, it won't get you hungry,” says Garcia.
This theory goes in line with a recent study published by USA Today, which showed a three percent decrease in school lunch participation, down from 31.9 million students, during the 2011-12 school year, to 30.9 million during the 2012-13 school year.
Concurrently, participation in school breakfast increased by about two-and-a-half percent, from 12.81 million students during the 2011-12 school year to 13.5 million in 2012-13.
So, is skipping lunch in favor of breakfast a healthy habit for a student to follow?
“It is good to start the day with a big breakfast," says Yvonne Ortega, a registered dietitian and nutrition professor at Santa Monica College. "Ideally, we would like to see you not skip any meal.”
Ortega says that skipping a meal will lead to a drop in your blood glucose levels, eventually making you extremely tired and lethargic.
"Being a student, you definitely need energy so your brain can think and you can concentrate,” she adds.
According to a study published in the medical journal "Metabolism" on PubMed.gov, it was found that people who skip meals have “elevated fasting glucose levels and a delayed insulin response,” which could result in diabetes if continued in the long-term.
The goal, Ortega says, is to eat a balanced meal of carbohydrates, fat and protein so that your glucose level remains steady.
"If a person skips lunch, they will go to something for energy, like an energy drink which is full of sugar, and which causes their blood glucose levels to rise rapidly," she says. "They are going to go to vending machines for snacks, which are probably going to be high in sugar and fat. They are not going to make good choices when they are starving."
Ortega recommends that a person eats three meals a day with one to two snacks consisting of fruits, trail mix or granola bars. These snacks are full of heart-healthy good fats, carbohydrates and fiber, which will curb hunger pangs and fuel the brain.
Mohammad Alathari, a psychology major at SMC, agrees that skipping meals is not conducive for effective learning. He says that he feels really tired and is in a bad mood whenever he skips a meal.
Nevertheless, skipping breakfast or lunch seems to be more of an exception than the norm among SMC students. Of the 10 students randomly interviewed, only two students said they skip a meal, or go for long periods of time without food. Most of them agree that skipping lunch or breakfast would affect their ability to concentrate and learn.