Category Archives: BMI

New school nutrition program proves to make a real difference in eating habits and BMI

New School Nutrition Program Improves Eating Habits and BMISchool lunches have been making the news for the last few years. Government nutrition standards have changed, providing schools nationwide with better meal and snack options for our kids. While there are varying opinions on the effects of the new standards, they’ve generally been viewed as a positive step helping children to make healthier choices by providing better foods in their cafeterias. Now we have new information surrounding an innovative program that’s been tested.

Can we fight childhood obesity by telling kids to eat more, not less? Researchers behind a new comprehensive school nutrition and wellness program say you get further by offering kids a carrot — literally, in this case — by giving them reasons to be excited about fruits and vegetables, rather than harping about what they should avoid, such as sugar-sweetened beverages.

In a randomized control study, the researchers found 4th-graders who participated in the nutrition program ate substantially more fruits and vegetables and lowered their body mass index (BMI) during the school year that the program was implemented. The percentage of 4th-graders who were overweight or obese dropped from 56 percent to 38 percent over the course of the year.

“We take the approach that positive messages are going to be more readily adopted by students than restrictive messages,” said Rachel Scherr, Ph.D., an assistant project scientist at the University of California at Davis and one of the study’s lead investigators. “For us, the most important thing is that the kids and their families really enjoyed the program. It was very successful, and I think it was critical that we focused on empowering kids and their families to want to make a change.”

The “Shaping Healthy Choices Program” takes a holistic approach to engage students, schools, parents and community partners in building healthful habits. At its core is a curriculum that integrates classroom nutrition activities with physical activity and gardening. It also includes cooking demonstrations and recipes, health-related activities for school events, family newsletters and guidance for school lunchrooms to encourage healthy eating, for example, by creating a salad bar.

Four elementary schools in two California school districts participated in the study. In each district, one school received the Shaping Healthy Choices Program over the course of the 2012-2013 school year while the other school did not. The researchers assessed several outcomes including students’ BMI, reported dietary intake and knowledge about nutrition at the start and end of the school year.

Although the analyses are still underway, preliminary results from one district show participating children dropped their BMI percentile by nearly 9 points, from an average of the 77th percentile to an average of the 68th percentile. Participating 4th-grade children who reported eating one or fewer servings of vegetables per day at the start of the study increased their vegetable intake by 40 percent. Students at the school that did not receive the Shaping Healthy Choices Program showed no change in BMI, vegetable intake or nutrition knowledge.

Scherr said the results show that the program has a real impact on students’ health. “When we designed the study, we anticipated short-term outcomes like kids having more knowledge of nutrition or being able to identify more vegetables. We always had a long-term goal of decreasing BMI, but we didn’t anticipate that it would happen in such a short timeframe. We are thrilled,” said Scherr.

The program was designed to be easily integrated into the Common Core standards now being rolled out in 44 U.S. states. The program’s multiple components can be adopted separately or together, though the study only evaluated the effectiveness of the full program.

The researchers plan to make the full program toolkit available online for free by the end of 2014, including professional development resources to facilitate the program’s implementation. Although the researchers played a major role in implementing the program at the test schools during the study, they believe that most schools will be able to adopt the program without outside assistance.

This honestly sounds like fun for kids! FoodFacts.com can’t think of a better way for schools to improve eating habits than by teaching. Nutrition activities, gardening, cooking and recipes are all engaging approaches to teaching a healthier lifestyle. We think it sounds like fun even if you’re an adult! We’re looking forward to hearing more about this program in the months to come!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140427185146.htm

School BMI screenings may not be perfect but they are a useful tool in the fight against childhood obesity

FoodFacts.com has been keeping an eye on the recent information in the news regarding parental responses to the in-school BMI screenings that are currently occurring in 21 different states (Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia). Children are screened in school for their BMI and then parents whose kids are determined to be overweight or obese by their BMI measurement are sent letters with the specifics of those measurements. It certainly isn’t helping that the letters have been labeled “fat letters” by students and teachers.

Those opposing the practice are voicing a number of different concerns including bullying, self-esteem issues and eating disorders. It is felt that, especially for girls, this BMI-driven approach to combating obesity is sending the wrong message. Already bombarded by “perfect body” images in the media, young girls can now be told they are the wrong “number” and that could encourage a rise in eating disorders. There is a definite cultural attitude towards obesity that somehow associates the overweight with being less appealing and less likeable. Folks are reasonably concerned that a letter home regarding a child’s BMI can certainly be a cause for their child to experience bullying from other kids because they’ve been labeled “fat” by their school system.

But most concerning are the reports from outraged parents whose children aren’t overweight at all who are receiving these letters anyway. These children are typically athletes – kids whose muscle mass accounts for more of their weight than it would for non-athletes. In some cases, the children’s height was recorded incorrectly. And in some cases, it’s been a combination of the two. Bottom line, in these instances the BMI measurement wasn’t an accurate picture of the child’s health.

Recent data reveals that 31.9% of children and teens in the United States are overweight or obese. We can all agree that this percentage is far too high and that too many of our children are at risk for adult obesity. We can all agree that obese children are at greater risk for suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure and that the lifestyles of children can be drastically altered due to their weight. Doesn’t that sound like we need a way to measure and track those kids who are obese or at risk for being obese?

In 2005, the US Preventive Services Task Force found that BMI is the preferred measure for detecting overweight children. BMI measurements not only identify children at risk for adult obesity and weight-related problems, they can also be correlated with long-term outcomes.

The biggest criticism for identifying children at risk for obesity through BMI measurement is the misclassification of athletic children. Kids with a higher lean body mass may fall into higher BMI percentiles and therefore may be identified as overweight or even obese when they aren’t. This is true of the system – but it is only applicable to a relatively small population of kids. Proponents of the system, state that this is why BMI is used as a screening tool and not a diagnostic tool.

And while it isn’t difficult to see the association of BMI screenings and the subsequent letters sent home to parents and bullying, self-esteem issues and an increase in eating disorders, in the state of Arkansas studies have shown that the BMI screening system has not shown any negative consequences for those children involved. At the same time, those studies have found that since the screenings began more Arkansas parents have signed their children up for sports or exercise classes and that the quality of family diets has increased.

FoodFacts.com is well aware that there are a number of valid concerns being raised in relationship to in-school BMI screenings. On the other hand, we’re just as aware of the 31.9% of America’s children classified as obese who are at a higher risk of adult obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and other preventable medical problems. If BMI screenings can give us a more accurate picture of the health of our children, help encourage lifestyle changes for those that need them and help lower weight associated health risks as a result, perhaps we need to hang in there through this process. While obviously not perfect, BMI screenings appear to be able to help the population. Perhaps the processes will be improved over time so as to ease the concerns expressed by parents and caregivers. As we seek ways to reverse the obesity crisis and assure that our children live longer, healthier lives we are called on to embrace the changes that will help us achieve our goals.

http://pediatricsde.aap.org/pediatrics/september_2013?pg=15#pg20