When it comes to the obesity crisis in this country, it seems like every month there is a new plan of action to combat a different source of concern. Recently the targets have been changing what is available in school lunches, and then limiting the size of soft drinks sold. Last week, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new information about another school related concern: The snack table.
Laws that limit schools sales of junk foods as snacks and in vending machines were reviewed to determine if there was a relationship between stricter laws and decreased rates of weight gained by students. The study results showed that the children in schools with stricter regulations gained less weight over the three years. On average, children with the most limitations gained 2.2 pounds less than students in schools with more lenient rules. In addition, the children’s Body Mass Index (BMI) trend, or weight for height ratio trend, was improved within that same group.
More importantly, the study found that the longer the regulations were in place (i.e. from grade school to high school), the better kids’ overall weight and BMI trends were. This brings up the important point that healthier habits that start early and are reinforced throughout adolescence are more likely to provide a benefit than severe changes as a reaction to weight gain.
No one can blame one person, one institution, or find one reason that our children’s waistlines are growing faster than we can handle. It is a myriad of complex societal factors and influences that can’t be changed all at once. What this study shows us is that improving the food environment in schools and at home can only help.