Study co-author Cathy Nonas, director of Physical Activity and Nutrition Programs in New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said several changes in city schools probably contributed to the drop in obesity rates.
"There are significant changes in school food," she said. "There is no whole milk in the schools anymore, it's only 1 percent and the chocolate milk is skim and low sugar," she said. "That saved 4.5 billion calories, just by making that change."
In addition, food served in schools has reduced fat and no trans fats and reduced salt, and the level of fiber has been increased, Nonas said. Drinks and snack foods sold in schools are also healthier, she said. Similar policies were also instituted in early child-care centers, she added.
Also, the city has trained K-5 teachers on how to increase physical activity in the classroom, Nonas said.
"It's a layering effect" that all contributed to reducing obesity rates, Nonas believes. These and similar policies are being implemented throughout the country, she noted.
The report was published in the Dec. 16 issue of the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
For the study, Berger's team used data on the more than 900,000 children in kindergarten to eighth grade in New York City public schools. The city's school system collects fitness data on these students every year, Berger said.
The researchers found the obesity for these children, aged 5 through 14, dropped from 21.9 percent in 2006-07 to 20.7 percent in 2010-11, a little more than a 1 percent decline among kids overall.
The biggest drop was among children aged 5 to 6, from 20.2 percent in 2006-07 to 18.2 percent in 2010-11, they noted.
These declines in obesity were seen in all race and ethnic groups, the researchers added.
Obesity expert Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University Sc
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