Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Brown Bag School Lunches...Better for the pocketbook and waistline!

Very interesting study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information looking at Obesity rates amongst students found that those who bought their lunches at school are 39% more likely to have weight problems than those who brown bag it.

Taking the time to prepare a wholesome lunch does more than help keep the weight off, it is also an opportunity to save a significant amount of money.

Making a meal plan and making lunches can significantly trim your food budget and will set you on your way to better financial and physical fitness.



Tuesday, September 13, 2005 Updated at 12:47 PM EDT

Globe and Mail Update

Children who buy lunch at school are significantly more likely to become overweight or obese than their counterparts who brownbag it, a new study suggests.

The study, funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, said youngsters who buy lunch at school were 39 per cent more likely to develop weight problems than others.

"The answer in that is the quality of the lunches," Dr. Paul Veugelers, a researcher at the University of Alberta and one of the study's two authors, said.

"They [school lunches] covered the whole spectrum from very healthy to very unhealthy. But, what this finding represents is the average, so an average school lunch doesn't meet any standards."

In addition, the study found that children who attended schools with infrequent physical-education programs — offered less than twice a week — were also at risk.

The findings were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and were based on a 2003 survey of Grade 5 students, their parents and principals in Nova Scotia. That province was picked because of its "particular weight and health concerns among both children and adults," the survey said.

Surprisingly, the study also found that children who attended schools where soft drinks were sold had only a slightly higher refined sugar intake than those who went to schools where the drinks were not available.

On average, youngsters who could buy soft drinks at school consumed about four cans of pop a week, compared with 3.6 cans drunk by children attending schools with no such sales.

Children who bought soft drinks at school consumed on average 33.5 grams of sucrose — the most refined type of sugar — each week. Others consumed an average of 32.5 grams.

"We observed that children attending schools that sell soft drinks consumed somewhat more soft drinks and sugar, but the amounts were likely insufficient to bring about differences in body weight," the study said.

Researchers also noted, however, that previous studies have also found that schools that combined more physical education, healthy lunches and nutrition education along with halting the sale of soft drinks were successful in improving children's diets and reducing the overweight and obesity rates by 59 per cent and 72 per cent respectively.

"Just taking one food item out of a school is not going to make that much difference," Dr. Veugelers said, adding it is also important to educate children about why they shouldn't be drinking it. "It's because of lifestyle issues and drinking pop is just a single one."

The findings of the Nova Scotia study also suggested that children who ate supper with their families — at least three or more times a week — were less likely to be overweight or obese.

As well, youngsters whose parents had higher levels of education were less likely to have weight problems. Similarly, children living in "disadvantaged neighbourhoods" were twice as likely to be obese as their peers, the findings indicate.

Dr. Veugelers said that finding that there was a difference wasn't new, but the size of the disparity was striking.

"Somebody asked me if I was surprised," he said. "I said, I'm not surprised. I'm shocked...That is something that you don't expect to see in Canada, especially in such a magnitude."

Unless action is taken, he added, health problems associated with obesity and other weight issues will emerge.

"I think the important message for policy makers here is to intervene and prioritize schools and children in disadvantaged neighbourhoods."

Overall, the study found that 32.9 per cent of Grade 5 students in Nova Scotia were overweight, with 9.9 per cent of those considered obese. The rates of those overweight were about the same for boys and girls, but obesity rates were slightly lower among girls.


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