Junk food in schools 'does not contribute towards childhood obesity'

20 January 2012

Junk food served in schools is not a significant contributory factor towards childhood obesity.
Researchers at the American Sociological Association found that although the percentage of obese children in the US has tripled in the past 30 years, the availability of high-fat and sugary drinks and snacks is not a causal point in this.

Lead author of the study Jennifer Van Hook, a professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University, said: "We were really surprised by that result and, in fact, we held back from publishing our study for roughly two years because we kept looking for a connection that just wasn't there."

She explained that 59.2 per cent of fifth graders (ages nine to ten) and 86.3 per cent of eighth graders (ages 12 to 13) in the study went to schools where junk food was sold, but none showed a rise in the number of obesity cases even when unhealthy foods were available.

Published in the January edition of Sociology of Education, the study concluded that despite the availability of junk food, the number of children in the age groups who were overweight or obese decreased from 39.1 per cent to 35.4 per cent.

The 2010 National Child Measurement Programme found that the percentage of obese children in Year 6 was nearly double that of youngsters of Reception age. Around 14.6 per cent of children in Year 6 were obese, compared to 13.3 per cent of those in the lowest school years.

Posted by Edward Bartel

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