A new study offers some evidence that better school lunches can reduce health problems

Turning the tide of childhood obesity downwards through the quality of school lunch programs, a study by M. Chandran at the Massachusetts General Hospital

According to a new study, an improvement in the quality of school meals through legislation could be a way to change the trajectory of childhood Obesity which has been rising for decades and affects about 1 in 5 U.S. kids.

Whether the program has begun to turn the tide for the whole country, and not just the groups of kids studied, is still unclear. 30 million kids in the US get a school lunch.

Dr. Aruna Chandran said that if you could impact the excess weight gain over the course of their entire childhood, then that would be a good thing. She led the study published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The law has caused the body mass index for children to fall by 0.041 units per year. That amounts to about a quarter of one BMI unit per year, Chandran said. The study showed a slight decline in kids who were overweight or obese.

One way to think of the change is that for a 10-year-old boy with an elevated body-mass index, the decline would amount to a 1-pound weight loss, noted Dr. Lauren Fiechtner, director of nutrition at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

“This is crucial as the flattening of the body mass index is very important,” she said. Holding kids’ weight steady as they grow can help keep obesity in check.

Some researchers cautioned against interpreting the findings in a way that was too broad. Kendrin Sonneville, an associate professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Michigan, said some of the children might not have been in school meals programs, or their district may not have fully implemented the nutrition requirements.

A slight reduction in those measures, she said, “doesn’t tell us whether the health, well-being, concerns related to food security of children participating in the school breakfast or lunch program improved.”

“Compared with children living in food-sufficient households, those living in households with marginal or low food sufficiency were less likely to eat either a daily fruit or vegetable and were more likely to consume sugar sweetened beverages during the preceding week,” the report says.

The 1 year old is more likely to eat fruit and vegetable than the older kids are, and less likely to have a drink with sugar in it.

It is the first time that we have state-level estimates on these behaviors. “It’s a really good time to think about the programs and policies that states have in place and areas where they can continue to work and improve to make the nutrition environment the best it can be for our young children.”

According to the report, about 70% of parents of Black children reported their child drinking a sugar-sweetened beverage at least once during the preceding week.

Nearly 3 in 5 kids in Louisiana didn’t eat a daily vegetable. There was a similar finding for fruit, with nearly half of children in Louisiana not eating a fruit each day.

Importance of Limiting High-Sugar Consumption in Early Childhood Foods and Becaibrations for the Development of Healthy Behaviors

“Limiting or reducing foods and beverages higher in added sugars, including sugar-sweetened beverages, is important because added sugars are associated with increased risk of obesity, dental caries, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,” the report said.

“We’ve found that it can take up to 10 times for a child to try a new food before they like it,” she said. It’s important to expose young children to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

One of the most important things is these early nutrition behaviors. It is when kids are beginning to lay the groundwork for some of those healthy behaviors that we can set them up for adulthood.

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