MONDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- States with strong laws about what foods can be sold at school outside breakfast and lunch programs appear to have more students who stay at healthier weights, new research suggests.
These laws, known as competitive food laws, regulate the foods that can be sold at schools outside the school meal programs in an attempt to reduce childhood obesity. The laws cover food from vending machines, for instance, and those sold a la carte in the cafeteria, or in fundraising projects for school teams or organizations.
Few studies have gauged how successful the laws are, so Dr. Daniel Taber, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois at Chicago, decided to evaluate their effects.
He found that they do work.
"Competitive food laws in schools reduce weight gain if they are strong and consistent," Taber said.
Students exposed to strong laws gained less than those not, and they were less likely to remain overweight or obese over time compared to students in states with no such laws.
The study is published online Aug. 13 and in the September print issue of Pediatrics.
Childhood obesity has tripled over the past three decades, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2008, 20 percent of children aged 6 to 11 were obese.
The study looked at data from 40 states. Of those, 11 had competitive food laws that were consistently strong or became stronger over the time period studied, from 2003 to 2006.
Taber and colleagues classified the laws as strong if they required schools to sell only foods that met specific nutrition standards. The laws were weak if they recommended but did not require sales of healthy foods, or if they used general language such as ''healthy foods'' without issuing guidelines for what qualified as healthy.
The investigators obtained health an
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