No Evidence Of A Link Between Junk Food And Weight Gain In Schools

Obesity rates in schools have trebled in the  last four decades in the US.  Truly shocking statistics.

However, a recent study published in Sociology In Education, authored by Jennifer Van Hook, a professor of Sociology and Demography, has found no evidence that junk food found in schools has contributed to weight gain.

The findings were so unexpected that Proff Hook and her team delayed publishing their findings for two years while they searched for an alternative explanation.

This was a large study of 19,500 children who were studied all the way from fifth to eighth grade.

Junk food was available to 59.2% of fifth graders and 86.3% of eighth graders.

Even though there was a significant rise in the availability and accessibility of junk food in schools, the rates of obesity/overweight remained much the same.  If fact, in the same group of children, as they got older the rates of obesity/overweight actually fell from 39.1% to 35.4%.  Quite remarkable. 

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver did a whole series based around junk food in schools.  His passion was commendable but he came in for a load of abuse, particularly from parents when he tried to implement better nutrition for the kids.

It has often been said that schools are making an awful lot of money from the sale of junk food but it would appear that this does not reflect the obesity levels in children.  Could it be that we need to focus our attention elsewhere to find the root cause?  After all, kids spend a relatively small amount of time in school, about a third, and even then for only 39 weeks per year.  Then, there are only small amounts of this time where children in this age range can actually access the junk food which is apparently making them fat.  Doesn’t add up does it?

Parents do not like the finger being pointed at them as far as their children’s diets are concerned.  Jamie Oliver’s efforts showed this in spectacular style with parents throwing McDonald’s over the school gate to their starving children!  However, there is no link that schools are the cause of the problem.  Obviously other factors need to be looked at too such as the amount of exercise these kids get, affluence and poverty etc. in order to get a clearer picture but this research in itself is very interesting indeed!