January 23rd, 2012
Junk food in schools gets weighty reprieve
By Bruce Bower
Controversial sales of candy, soda and other junk food in middle schools don’t weigh heavily on students’ waistlines. This surprising finding — based on a study that followed almost 20,000 kids through middle school — suggests that obesity prevention programs should target children in their homes and communities during the preschool years, when eating habits form, researchers say.
But the authors may have lacked “absolutely essential” data on individual kids’ eating habits at school, which would directly show whether junk food availability led to weight gains, says nutrition scientist Mary Story of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis adds.
A more comprehensive national study conducted in 2004 and 2005 linked junk food sold in vending machines in or near school lunch areas with increased student body weight, Story says. She estimates that 40 percent of elementary and secondary school students in that study obtained enough daily calories, on average, from food other than school lunches to gain weight.