Study Finds Junk Food Laws Effective
Childhood obesity is a serious problem that America faces today and most of it is thanks to the junk food being marketed by the dozens of fast food restaurants in the country. In wake of the rising obesity levels, everyone seems to be questioning the junk food laws already in place in the country's federal system. Well, here is some good news. A study has revealed that there is evidence that laws curbing junk food consumption can actually play a positive role in curbing childhood obesity. The news is particularly encouraging for people such as the New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is having a tough time getting the public to accept his soda ban.
The National Scenario
There are laws governing the sale of food and drinks inside school campuses, be it in the cafeteria, through the public vending machines or at school stores. There are both strong and weak laws to take care of the specific nutrition requirements as well as sale of healthy foods. The bottomline is that laws are in place to ensure that your child eats well at school. The study, which was published online in the journal "Pediatrics" this week, shows that the laws can be effective in curbing obesity levels among school children, if only these are consistently strong. Lead author of the study, Daniel Taber, who works as a health policy researcher at Chicago's University of Illinois, said that the results are encouraging. The study results would be printed in the print edition of the journal's September issue.
The Vice Versa Scenario
Statistician at the Boston University, Mark Glickman, admits that the study design is such that reaching a convincing conclusion becomes difficult. In fact, the authors of the study have said that there are states with stronger laws, which have high levels of obesity as well. Taber says that this could be seen from another angle - the States with higher levels of obesity could be aggressive in the form of stronger junk food laws. Dr. Ludwig pitches in with, "The challenge is that there are a great many factors that coalesce to influence body weight. Disentangling these influences and looking at the independent effects of just one is a methodological nightmare." Dr. Marlene Schwartz of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, provides a perspective, "We have found that kids eat less junk food when there is less junk food in schools. She advocates that "competitive food rules are incredibly important."
The Study Sample
The authors of the study undertook data analysis with regard to 6,300 students in 40 States. The heights and weights of these students were measured when they were finishing fifth grade, which was in spring 2004. The same values were again recorded when those students were in the eighth grade, in the year 2007. Besides the heights and weights of the students, the researchers also analyzed the state laws on school nutrition, between the same time. The results showed that the children living in States with stronger laws gained less weight between fifth and eighth grades. In comparison, students in States having weaker laws gained weight. No marks for guessing, which States are favorable for your kid's health.
Good or Bad
The study was undertaken over a long time and the results, for the first time, take into account the national scene as far as junk food laws are concerned. However, the critics are not easily satisfied. They contend that the study endorses having a "nanny state" in order. However, even if the laws are going to have just a little effect, what is the downside? Dr. David Ludwig, obesity specialist at the Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, asks, "What are the downsides of improving the food environment for children today? You can't get much worse than it already is." Ask British chef and food activist Jamie Oliver, who has devoted his life to bringing awareness against the junk food being served to our kids in school cafeterias.
To be true to the study results, the effects of junk food laws don't seem to be directly impacting the kids' weight. However, obesity experts and public health advocates are more than enthusiastic about the study. One such expert, Dr. Virginia Stallings of a children's hospital, said, "This is the first real evidence that the laws are likely to have an impact." Her statement carries some weight because she also headed a panel that has already sought more healthful snack foods and drinks at schools.
Junk food advertising is already taking its toll on the health of our children. Banning junk foods has also not proven to be helpful. Considering the fact that as many as 20% of children studying at the elementary schools in the country are obese, the study results provide an even more important reason to have stronger laws against junk foods at your disposal.