Junk Food Laws Help Combat Childhood Obesity
Laws in the US to strictly curb sale of junk food and sweetened drinks in schools may help to control childhood obesity, according to a recent study.
The results were announced after the first large national look at the effectiveness of state laws regarding the sale of junk food and drinks over a period of time. Obesity experts praised the political efforts to enforce this law and face the opposition of the food-processing companies who rely to a large extent on the schools for their business.
The authors of the study released the analyzed data on 6,300 students in 40 states in the journal Pediatrics. The heights and weight were measured at first in spring 2004, when the children finished fifth grade and soon entered middle school, and again during the spring of the eighth grade. The researchers also examined in the study the database of the states that did not follow the law at all. Due to database license restrictions that protects the student's confidentiality, the name of the states were not identified.
In the study, children gained less weight from fifth through eighth grades if they lived in a state which was strongly abiding with the laws regarding junk food in school, compared to the children in the states where the law was not followed. For example, a five foot tall boy with 100 pounds of weight added 2.2 pounds less on an average if he lived in a state strongly abiding with the law in the three years of the study. Also, obese kids were more likely to reach a healthy weight by eighth grade if they lived in such states.
The effects were not huge and the results were not as great as were expected, but still the law was praised by the obesity researchers and the public health experts as it strictly keeps junk food out of schools.
The laws govern food and drinks sold in the vending machines and school stores outside mealtime. The results suggest that the law should be enforced in all the schools for every age group of students.
According to recent data, 20% of elementary school students are obese in the United States of America; the rates are a little less among the teens. In the states with no laws on the school junk food availability, 37% of students are overweight and 21% are obese.