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Body Weight Rises with Poor Nutrition Policies in School

Some school programs and practices encourage unhealthy eating habits

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The body mass index of children increases 10% with each additional food-related policy permitted by schools, with the most common being the use of food as incentive in the classroom and in fundraising, according to a Minnesota study published in the December issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The researchers call for a higher level of nutritional integrity in schools.

Martha Y. Kubik, Ph.D., and associates at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, studied 3,088 eighth graders from 16 middle schools in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. They asked school administrators for information on school-wide food policies. They also asked about the schools' food practices, including the use of foods in school-wide and classroom fundraising, as incentives and rewards in the classroom, and allowance of food and beverages in the classroom or hallways. The team asked students to provide their height and weight.

In analyzing food practices according to a seven-item scale, the mean number of food practices permitted per school was three. In 69% of schools, food was used as an incentive in the classroom, and 56% of schools used food in fundraising. Body mass index rose with an increasing number of such policies.

"Prevention of overweight in childhood must include attention to the nutrition integrity of schools, and school nutrition policies that consistently support and promote healthy dietary practices among adolescents are urgently needed," the authors conclude.

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