A new study has revealed that school children who eat foods purchased in vending machines are prone to chronic health problems.
University of Michigan Medical School researchers have suggested that such food is responsible for poor diet quality that may be associated with being overweight, obese or at risk of health problems like diabetes and coronary artery disease.
The study also looked at foods sold in school stores, snack bars and other related sales that compete with USDA lunch program offerings and found that these pose the same health and diet risks in school-aged children.
"The foods that children are exposed to early on in life influence the pattern for their eating habits as adults," said Madhuri Kakaralaof the U-M Medical School.
Researchers analysed data from 2,309 children in grades 1 through 12 from schools across the country. Interviewers administered questionnaires to obtain 24-hour food intake data on a given school day. Second-day food intake data was obtained from a group of students to account for day-to-day usual intakes.
Among those surveyed, 22 percent of school children consumed competitive or vended food items in a school day.
Usage was highest in high school, where 88 percent of schools had vending machines, compared to 52 percent of middle schools and 16 percent of elementary schools.
Competitive food and beverage consumers had significantly higher sugar intakes and lower dietary fiber, vitamin B levels and iron intakes than non-consumers.
"Consumption of vended foods and beverages currently offered in U.S. schools is detrimental to children's diet quality.
"Childhood obesity, resulting from poor dietary choices, such as those found in this study, greatly increases the risk for many chronic diseases. A healthy school food environment can reduce these dietary risks," said Kakarala.
The findings appeared in the Journal of School Health.