Junk food regulations on school food help combat childhood obesity.
According to a report from the New York Times, a recent study shows a positive correlation exists between adolescent weight gain and state laws regulating snack foods and drinks available in schools.
Daniel Taber of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and an author of the study, says that the study suggests that, “Competitive-food laws can have an effect on obesity rates if the laws are specific, required and consistent.” Competitive foods are snack foods that “compete” with or take the place of healthy meals in many adolescents diets. Health food advocates argue that restricting children’s access to unhealthy competitive foods encourages them to eat more healthy foods.
The study followed changes in weight for 6300 students in 40 states, and matched these changes to the students home states. The states were grouped into states with no laws regulating competitive foods in schools, states with weak laws, and states with strong laws covering such foods. Strong laws included specific guidelines about nutritional standards, while weak laws included those with more general recommendations, and the categories were determined using the National Cancer Institute’s Classification of Laws Associated with School Students database.
The results showed that students living in strong-law states gained less weight than students in no-law states. The students in strong-law states gained an average of 0.44 units fewer than their counterparts in no-law states. The study also found that students who began the study as obese were more likely to reach a healthy weight if they lived in strong-law states than if they lived in no law states. The study found no significant difference between students in weak-law and no-law states.
Both the weight and obesity rates of children and adults have been increasing dramatically in recent decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 20 percent of American children are obese. Childhood obesity is associated with a propensity towards adult obesity, and can lead to such negative health factors as high blood pressure, diabetes and other metabolic problems, and heart disease. The CDC recommends that parents take an active role in monitoring and managing their children’s diets, providing them with fruits and vegetables and limiting access to high-sugar and high-fat foods.