Questions for “Warning! Junk foods can harm a teen’s brain”

a photo of a pile of junk food, including a hamburger, fries, chocolate, gummy candy, a doughnut, cookies and more

Adolescent brains have a hard time resisting junk food. Researchers now are showing that high-fat and high-sugar diets — such as burgers, fries and sweets — can lead to disturbing changes in mental health.

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To accompany “Warning! Junk foods can harm a teen’s brain


Before Reading:

1. What are five foods you really enjoy eating?

2. Does eating junk food make you feel good? Why or why not?

During Reading:

1.  What are three ways that adolescent brains are more sensitive than other ages to high-fat, high-sugar foods? 

2.  What brain region important for decision-making remains immature in people until their early 20s?

3.  Why is dopamine called the “feel good” chemical? How is it different in adolescent brains compared to adult brains?

4.  What did Amy Reichelt and her colleagues hope to learn by studying teenage mice?

5.  What is working memory? Give two examples when you might be using your working memory.

6.  How did Reichelt and her colleagues determine that a high-fat diet hurt mouse memories?

7.  What connection did Felice Jacka find between junk food and depression in human adolescents?

8.  What is one way that scientists think junk food might be linked to damage in the body?

9.  Why are omega-3 fats important for our brains? What differences did Alexandra Richardson see between children with attention and hyperactivity problems who took omega-3 pills and those who did not?

10. How can exercise affect the brain?

After Reading:

1.  Think about the five foods you listed in the Before Reading question above. Which ones do you think help support a healthy brain? Which do not?

2.  How do you choose what to eat? Will learning about how junk food affects your brain will influence how you make those choices? Explain why or why not?