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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Should schools regulate junk food?


Some schools are becoming very proactive in controlling the junk food being offered within the school.  Some states now have laws controlling what food children will be able to buy at school.  These laws focus on limiting sodas high in sugar, and other so-called “junk food” sold in vending machines or served at snack bars.    Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity expert at Harvard University is quoted as saying, “What are the downsides of improving the food environment for children today?  You can’t get much worse than it already is.”   Junk Food Laws

What effect did controlling junk food in schools have on children’s health?
           
o   Less weight gain – children in grades 5-8 gained less weight
o   Overweight/obese children in 5th grade were more likely to become normal weight children by 8th grade

The study reporting these promising results was in the online journal of Pediatrics.  The researchers studied 6300 children in 40 states across the nation.  During 2004-2007, they followed children from 5th grade through 8th grade in middle school.   

Although not proof that laws restricting junk food in schools can lead to healthier weights in children, the study does suggest that such laws can be effective.   The study concluded:

Laws that regulate competitive food nutrition content may reduce adolescent BMI change if they are comprehensive, contain strong language, and are enacted across grade levels.

The New York Times notes that some people “say that school is such a small part of a child’s day that healthier options will make little difference when coupled with a home environment with a lot of unhealthy choices.” Study Links Healthy Weight in Children With Tough Snack Laws - NYTimes.com

Parents can advocate for healthier choices at schools, can pack a healthy lunch for their child, and served a healthy breakfast at home before sending their child off to school. 
So what about your school?  Are healthy options available in vending machines and snack bars?

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