Ever wondered why your health deteriorates in the first weeks of university?  Sure, you’ve drunk abundant amounts of alcohol, spent the early hours of the morning dressed in crazy attire or scrambled out of bed to attend early lectures, but what really demolishes a student’s immune system? Here’s what IMPACT blames.

The Kitchen: This may be focused more on the self-catered among you or those who have moved into their first house but it’s inevitable – the kitchen will get messy. The minute the parents are gone, so does the kitchen hygiene. The plates build up, the alcohol bottles congregate, the fridge will not be cleaned out all year (be honest) and you realise just how quickly your entire food supply goes mouldy.

A study by Leeds Metropolitan University proved that the kitchen floor of an average student kitchen carries more than 6 million bacteria; that’s more than a loo seat. The average student mop also contains so many bacteria that cleaning your floor could actually make it worse.

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The kitchen sink itself could contain more than 100,000 times more bacteria than your toilet. Washing-up brushes, tea towels and chopping boards trap thousands of bacteria including E. coli.

You can either be the flatmate who nags at the others to wash their dishes, or you can admit defeat and spend the rest of the year living in squalor.

The Food: You come to university with bright eyes and a student cookbook. Well… after a week the eyes are blurry and the student cookbook is on a shelf not to be uncovered until the day you move out. Instead you discover the basics range, along with Iceland ready meals and takeaways. The ready meal industry is worth £2.6 billion and students can definitely take some credit for that. But these ready meals are high in salt, preservatives and saturated fat.

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Also, the high sugar levels in fast foods affect your metabolism.  You secrete more insulin to lower your blood sugar levels but this only has a short term effect. Fast food contains little nutrients so your blood sugar rapidly drops making you feel tired and grumpy.

The calorie content for the average take away is also very high with an average Indian containing 1,338, as well as 19 teaspoons of sugar, and a Chinese has an average of 1436 calories. Out of the high street fast food brands, the most calorific item is Burger King’s chicken sandwich with 659 calories, more than even a Big Mac. These foods increase blood pressure and make it difficult to concentrate.

Lack of sleep: The lack of sleep caused by quite a few late nights in the first weeks will soon creep up on you, causing you to lose attention and making you forgetful. It can also make you gain weight, kill sex drive and reduce immunity, making you far more likely to get colds. Team that up with a lecture theatre full of sniffling students and you’re sure to catch something.

Taking energy drinks to give you a quick boost may actually be more harmful for you. The caffeine, artificial sweeteners and chemicals in them can make you angry, cause headaches, increase blood pressure and further disrupt your sleep.

The cure to an all-nighter? Powernaps lasting 20 minutes have been proven to be beneficial to your health. They reduce stress hormones, increase memory and will give you the energy and alertness to power through the next late night.

Image Courtesy: stevendepolo & elycefeliz

Jessica Hewitt-Dean

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