In another blow to the common food nanny narrative that the government needs to step in to help kids stay healthy and avoid obesity, a new study has come out showing government has nothing to do with keeping kids healthy. According to one story highlighting the study:
Jennifer Martin-Biggers, doctoral student in nutritional sciences at Rutgers, said: "People who have more frequent family meals tend to have better diets. Children in such families also tended to do better at school," she added, the Telegraph reports.
The study was based on research into the eating habits of families in the US, where 40 percent of domestic food budgets are spent on eating out. In the UK, the proportion is about 30 percent, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
I've written about this issue for years and often hightlight the findings of another study on childhood obesity. In that study–conducted by researchers at the Ohio State Univesity, researchers concluded that only three things keep rates of childhood obesity low–sending kids to bed at a normal hour, limiting the number of hours a child watches televistion and eating family dinners at least five times a week. Published in the March 2010 issue of the journal Pediatrics, this was the first study to review the impact of all three activities on children in a national sample of pre-schoolers. Of the 4-year-old children whose households did not practice all three routines, 24.5% were considered obese. In households where all three habits were practiced, only 14.3% of children were obese. These routines were found to reduce the likelihood of obesity even among children at high risk of the condition (for reasons like having a family history of obesity, being raised in a low-income household, or growing up in a single-parent home).
A 2007 study from Northwestern University yielded similar results, finding that inadequate sleep put children between the ages of 3 and 18 at greater risk of being overweight. The researchers discovered that just one extra hour of sleep helped to reduce the risk of being overweight from 36% to 30% for young children.
These studies suggest that the key to controlling childhood obesity really has little to do with schools or feeding programs. Rather, the most important part of the solution is hands-on parenting.