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U.S. Schools Throwing the Book at Unhealthy Drinks
Date:7/5/2012

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- More U.S. elementary schools are banning unhealthy beverages from the premises, according to a new report.

Just one-third of students in U.S. elementary schools had access to sugary drinks and high-fat milk in 2010-2011, compared to 47 percent in 2007-2008, the report indicated. And less than 12 percent could obtain sugar-sweetened drinks at school last year.

"We are seeing some really encouraging changes in the school environment," said study co-author Lindsey Turner, research scientist at the Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago.

"They are removing sugary beverages and high-fat milk," she said. However, "there is still progress to be made."

The report is published in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The researchers surveyed schools using criteria developed by the Institute of Medicine, an independent organization that advises decision makers. It recommends that beverages offered at schools -- through snack bars, vending machines or a la carte lunch lines -- be limited to water, 100 percent juice and nonfat or 1 percent milk.

It's hoped that restricting high-calorie beverages will help curb the nation's obesity epidemic. In 1980, 7 percent of U.S. children aged 6 to 11 were obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2008, nearly 20 percent -- or one in five kids -- were obese.

Obesity in childhood sets the stage for long-term, serious health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease.

For this report, Turner's team looked at the years 2006 through 2011. Among other findings, the investigators found the percentage of public grade-school students who had access to sugary beverages alone decreased from 17 percent in 2006-2007 to less than 12 percent in 2010-2011.

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