Tuesday, January 17, 2017

School-Based Obesity Prevention Policies Don't Up Eating Disorder Risk

One of the worries surrounding school based teaching on obesity prevention is that doing so will lead exposed students to eating disorders and/or unhealthy weight control behaviours.

To date, there hasn't been much research one way or the other to either support or refute that concern, but a recent paper published ahead of print in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is reassuring.

The study examined whether the implementation of school obesity prevention policies between 2008-2010 in Minnesota public secondary schools had any impact on the prevalence of students' weight control behaviours through 2010.

Hearteningly, not only wasn't there an increase in unhealthy behaviours following the launch of school based teaching around obesity, but there may have been a decrease, with researchers describing that those schools that specifically included the topic of eating disorders in their health education curriculum showed an inverse association with school level prevalence of any extreme weight control behaviours.

Not teaching kids about health seems backwards to me, and it's nice to have data to support the safety of doing so. Without exception, care needs to be taken in terms of what and how these topics are taught, but given the rise and risks of chronic, non-communicable, diet-related, diseases in children, hamstringing kids by ignoring relevant teaching and discussion won't do them any favours, while this study suggests that teaching them might.

Looking forward to further research on this, and hopefully too, surveillance that includes whether or not these sorts of initiatives increase, decrease, or don't affect, weight-based in-school bullying.

[And just a correction from yesterday's post. Health Canada's new labeling law, when considering products with small serving sizes, would instead use a 50g reference for determination of a "high in sugar" label and hence Nutella will indeed be "high in sugar". Sorry for the error!]

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