The percentage of overweight or obese children in test schools dropped from 56 percent to 38 percent over the course of a single school year, thanks to a new nutrition program developed and tested in the classroom by UC Davis nutrition researchers.
The new program fits into the new Common Core educational standards.
“The education component of this program is intended to help children develop nutrition-related problem-solving skills,” said co-author Jessica Linnell, a senior doctoral candidate in the department of nutrition. “We think that these skills, combined with knowledge about foods, may be critical in order for children to make healthy choices.”
Researchers say the program could be adopted nationally at little cost to schools. The program was pilot-tested for this study in schools in Sacramento and Stanislaus counties. Study findings were reported recently during the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting.
“When we designed the study, we anticipated short-term outcomes such as kids having more knowledge of nutrition or being able to identify more vegetables,” said Rachel Scherr, assistant project scientist in the department of nutrition and one of the study’s lead investigators.
“We always had a long-term goal of decreasing body mass index, but we didn’t anticipate that it would happen in such a short timeframe, so we are thrilled.”
In a randomized control study, the researchers found that fourth-graders who participated in the nutrition program ate substantially more vegetables and lowered their body mass index during the school year in which the nutrition program was implemented.
— UC Davis News