Posting in Education
A new study has suggested that junk food in schools does not promote childhood obesity. Do you agree?
A new study has been released that ascertains junk food is not a cause for obesity in children.
In a culture where childhood obesity is consistently rising, and various public figures have campaigned for years to try and limit it -- such as a 'fat tax' on soda and bans on candy and junk food being sold in schools, research still tries to 'justify' food choices schools make for the sake of speed and lower prices.
The study, "Competitive Food Sales in Schools and Childhood Obesity: A Longitudinal Study," has been recently published in the journal Sociology of Education. Childhood obesity has tripled in the U.S. over the last 30 years.
Approximately 20,000 students from kindergarten through to eighth grade in 1,000 public and private schools were tracked for the study.
The researchers found that there was no increase in the percentage of students who were overweight or obese between their fifth-grade and eighth-grade years. In fact, those numbers dropped from 39.1 percent to 35.4 percent. However, in the eighth grade, 35.5 percent of kids in schools that offered junk food were overweight, while 34.8 percent of those in schools without it were overweight.
This small increase is seen as 'statistically insignificant'.
"Schools only represent a small portion of children's food environment." says Jennifer Van Hook, the sociology professor who led the study.
Centering the research on soft drinks, candy and chips -- all of which are formally called 'competitive foods', the study indicated that the presence of such foods in schools is not the sole cause for childhood obesity. It isn't, but that doesn't justify it being sold in the first place. The study says:
"Employing fixed effects models and a natural experimental approach, they found that children's weight gain between fifth and eighth grades was not associated with the introduction or the duration of exposure to competitive food sales in middle school."
By placing junk food in schools, you are not only making access to high sugar and salt content food and drink freely available, you are promoting a behavioural trend in eating these kinds of foods. There are few schools that offer 'healthy' options -- so in turn, you not only encourage unhealthy habits as children are in adolescence, schools offer no alternatives.
The study argues against this -- stating that a child's eating habits are fixed by the time they reach middle school, and therefore the presence of vending machines will not sway them from their ingrained preferences anyway.
So instead of putting healthy options within an environment children attend for hours a day, we should take the approach that 'they are already overweight, their habits are fixed' and let it be, rather than encourage them to make better food choices?
If a child is hungry, which is likely to happen in the 9 hours or so they attend school, then they will find food. If the quickest access to food available is in the guise of a chocolate bar or packet of crisps, then children will eat it. By placing such foods within their reach, school districts are sending the message that it is acceptable to eat every day. This kind of tacit approval is probably not a positive one to send.
Image credit: Ernesto Andrade/Flickr
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Jan 22, 2012
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Junk food has to be a major contributor to all obesity but just as important must be the lack of exercise. Not formal exercise but the normal running around which those of us used to do on a daily basis right up until the mid 80s. The 'fear' of what MIGHT happen to children outside the home has led to something which DOES happen. They lose social skills, many become indolent and/ or anti social, mistrustful of adults especially men and of course, FAT and subsequently unhealthy. So not just junk food then?
it's diet an exercise drugs go in the body as easy as a mac chez, doing nothing but move in daily life is not exercise. But the main problem is truth in education.
Whenever someone talks about the childhood obesity epidemic, it always makes me wonder how many of these kids are on some kind of medication that could be causing this, since weight gain tends to be an "acceptable" side-effect in many medications. I know this firsthand battling this problem with seizure medications when I was little. I was on this medication for about a decade, and about 6 months after I went off of the stuff, my overweight body had shrunk down to about half the size it was before, with no other changes in my diet or exercise.
An old joke goes "If you squeeze a statistic hard enough, it will confess to anything" (or said differently, you get what you measure) I found this article confusing: The study was from K-8 grades yet the researchers findings are only being reported for 5-8? Why? The lead on the study says ???Schools only represent a small portion of children???s food environment." This suggests the researchers think the study results less then valid given the variables not taken into account. "The study indicated that the presence of such foods in schools are not the sole cause for childhood obesity" Was uncovering the "sole cause" the aim of the study? The article argues against the findings of the study (that eating habits are fixed by middle school) "hoping" that the presence of healthier foods will somehow lead to better eating choices. There is so much more involved in food selection that the suggestion of better choices happening by the presence alone of better food options is wishful thinking at best. A young person's entire environment needs to be addressed daunting as that may seem. There are many good people taking on this issue and the best of them, in terms of results, involve both educating the students AND their families together. A labor/time intensive task indeed!
So fattening foods don't make you fat? I wonder who funded this study? The researcher is from Penn State, but she probably conducted the study with a grant from private industry, and I'd bet a week's pay that it was one of the junk food processors. All research done in the U.S. is now tainted by private money and suspect of producing skewed results. It's a tragic shame.
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