Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Strict School Snack Laws Linked to Healthier Weight in Kids

A recent study finds laws preventing the sale of unhealthy snacks and beverages in schools is correlated with reduced weight gain in students.

solitary coke can under fairly dramatic lighting

Photo: vwb5 (Flickr)

Should we enact laws that ban junk food from schools all together, or would such action constitute an excessive infringement on personal freedom?

According to an article published this month in the journal Pediatrics, adolescents experienced less weight gain in states with stronger regulations on the sale of snacks and sugary drinks in schools than those living in states with weaker or no regulations.

The Obesity Link

The study, which controlled for such factors as gender, age, socioeconomic status and adult obesity prevalence at the outset, tracked weight changes over a four year period for 6,300 students in 40 states.

Though a strict cause-and-effect relationship could not be determined due to lack of detail in the data gathering, this is the first and largest national study of its kind to find a link between laws regulating school food and childhood obesity.

Food Laws

Researchers used Westlaw, an electronic legal research database, to find regulatory nutrition laws in the 40 states examined. The states’ laws were then scored for strength based on stringency, specificity and strength of language.

Strong laws contained clear, specific, required standards, whereas laws categorized as weak generally contained recommendations or no guidelines at all.

Do the Laws Help?

While the study’s authors could not determine causation, they still argued that the results favor adoption of stricter food regulations in schools. Daniel Taber, one of the researchers involved, identified the key components needed in such laws:

“Competitive-food laws can have an effect on obesity rates if the laws are specific, required and consistent.”

If at a time when obesity levels continue to rise, more regulations on school food have a chance of improving health, maybe it’s time for more states to get on board.

Read More:

  • Study Links Healthier Weight In Children With Strict Laws On School Snacks (New York Times)
  • Weight Status Among Adolescents In States That Govern Competitive Food Nutrition Content (Pediatrics)
  • CDC: Pretty Much Everyone Is Fat (Wired)
Sarah Kaiser

Sarah Kaiser is a student-turned-townie living in Bloomington, Indiana. A social media specialist at Solution Tree, she spends her days tweeting and her nights foraging at the local summer market for new tastes and flavors. And occasionally rocking out on the ukulele.

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