Students who participate in team sports at school are more likely to be able to maintain a healthy weight, while large amounts of soda consumption and screen time were linked to students being overweight or gaining weight, according to a study presented recently at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting.
The study, led by researchers at Indiana University, examined a school-based childhood obesity program known as HEROES (Healthy, Energetic, Ready, Outstanding, Enthusiastic Schools) over an 18-month period, from the fall of 2009 to the spring of 2011. A total of 5,309 students in 11 schools across Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky who participated in the HEROES initiative during that time were included in the study.
The researchers were aiming to determine "predictors for persistent overweight/obesity" by measuring the weight and height of the students in the study every six months. Students were grouped into different weight categories, then grouped again into "persistent overweight/obesity," "deteriorated weight," or "improved weight" categories.
The study authors used logistic regression to determine how certain factors affected students' weight, and if you're a long-term reader of this blog, the findings likely won't surprise you.
Students who drank more soda, spent more time in front of screens (such as televisions and computers), and those who attended urban schools had higher odds of belonging to the "persistent overweight/obesity" category (30.6 percent) and deteriorated weight (6.9 percent) groups compared to the persistent non-overweight category.
Meanwhile, those who participated in team sports at school had a higher likelihood of being able to maintain a healthy weight over a longer period. (A study published online in the journal Pediatrics back in July suggested that team sports were the most effective way to prevent childhood obesity, too.)
"Schools and families may be able to successfully focus on these modifiable risk factors, decreasing the burden of childhood obesity," said study author Dong-Chul Seo, associate professor in the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, in a statement.
Not surprisingly, the American Beverage Association wasn't thrilled with the findings. They released a statement on the same day the study was discussed at the APHA annual meeting, saying, "This is yet another example of science by press release."
The ABA said that since the study hasn't yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, its findings should not be taken as gospel. (Promoting the findings "is not only premature, but irresponsible," the ABA says.)
On the bright side, the ABA did praise the study for supporting "the important role that schools and families play in educating students about the importance of leading balanced, active, and healthy lifestyles."
The Institute of Medicine published a report earlier this year that suggested schools should become a major focal point for preventing the spread of obesity in the United States. The American Medical Association also voted in June to support "meaningful yearly instruction" about nutrition and the causes of youth obesity for K-12 students.
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