SUNDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- School-based efforts at better nutrition, more exercise and improved education about healthy living can help kids who are most at risk for obesity keep the weight off, compared to children in schools without such programs, a new study suggests.
But the program failed to reduce the overall numbers of overweight and obese schoolchildren -- those numbers fell by 4 percent over three years whether the 42 middle schools in the study had such initiatives or not, the researchers report.
"The intervention, surprisingly, did not result in a [population-wide] reduction in overweight or obesity," said lead researcher Gary D. Foster, a professor of medicine and public health and director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University, Philadelphia. "What's surprising is that the control group improved as well," he said.
The school-based initiative didn't seem to have much of an impact on children who were not already overweight or obese by sixth grade, the team found, but it did impact children who were already having weight troubles by that grade level.
For those kids, "there were small [weight-loss] effects of about 3 percent. Although that's small, it's enormous given the rates of obesity in this country," Foster said. "This was an unexpected but fortunate finding -- that we are actually impacting the kids at the greatest risk."
The findings are slated to be presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association in Orlando, and they are also being simultaneously published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
For the study, Foster's team randomly assigned more than 4,600 students from the 42 schools to a diet, exercise and information program, or to a program where only their weight and height was assessed. The study targeted schools with high levels of minority childr
All rights reserved