In a finding sure to surprise parents, a new study suggests junk food sold in schools isn’t a primary cause of weight gain among children
Soda, chips, candy and other junks food students purchase in middle school has nothing to do with the weight gain that has led to a tripling in obesity rates among children since the 1970s, said Pennsylvania State University researchers.
"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," said Jennifer Van Hook, lead author of the study published in the journal Sociology of Education.
The study relies on data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999, which follows a nationally representative sample of
To reach their conclusions, researchers tracked nearly 20,000 students from kindergarten through eighth grade (the 1998-1999 through 2006-2007 schools years). Nearly 60 percent of fifth graders and more than 86 percent of eighth graders attended schools that sold junk food. But the researchers found no increase in the percentage of
Van Hook said the findings suggest policies that aim to reduce childhood obesity should focus more on the home and family environments and other situations outside of school.
The study results also suggest childhood obesity messages should more aggressively target younger children – before they get to middle school.
About 17 percent of U.S. children and teens ages 2-19 are obese, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.