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Opening Arguments

Junk food science

Juxtaposition of the day. First, news of the implementation of new federal guidelines for school lunches, which are to include more veggies and less fat and, well, you know the drill:

The reforms, presented by First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Wednesday, are a major plank of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which aims to improve children’s nutrition and to curb the widespread problem of childhood obesity. About a third of U.S. children are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Implementing the new guidelines will cost $3.2 billion over five years, according to the USDA; that cost will be offset in part by a 6-cents-per-meal increase in federal reimbursements and other measures.

And here's some new research from Pennsylvania State University, which tracked the body mass indexes of 19,450 students from fifth through eighth grade:

The researchers compared children’s weight in schools where junk food was sold and in schools where it was banned. The scientists also evaluated eighth graders who moved into schools that sold junk food with those who did not, and children who never attended a school that sold snacks with those who did. And they compared children who always attended schools with snacks with those who moved out of such schools.

No matter how the researchers looked at the data, they could find no correlation at all between obesity and attending a school where sweets and salty snacks were available.

“Food preferences are established early in life,” said Jennifer Van Hook, the lead author and a professor of sociology and demography at Penn State. “This problem of childhood obesity cannot be placed solely in the hands of schools.”

"No correlation at all." $3.2 billion. "No correlation at all." $3.2 billion. "No correlation at all." $3.2 billion.


Harl Delos
Thu, 01/26/2012 - 3:33pm

I want to see a study that correlates the consumption of trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, agrichemicals, and obesity.  I suspect one of the big factors in obesity was the bad advice the USDA was putting out in the 1950s that Crisco was safer than lard and margarine was healthier than butter. 

I'm less sure HFCS is  a villain, but I'd like to see the numbers anyway.

Obesity researchers have said for twenty years, and for the past ten, have pretty much agreed, that your body fat is an organ that helps you deal with stress.  If you are overstressed, you get enlarged fat, the same way people get enlarged heart or enlarged liver - and it occurs to me that eating poison would be stressful.