School Lunch: Hazardous to Your Weight?

School lunch, at least as served in Birmingham between 2005 and 2009, might have been hazardous to your weight. A new study comparing home-schooled and traditionally-schooled children found significantly more obesity and unhealthy diets in the traditionally-schooled groups. The unhealthy diet differences were virtually all attributed to school lunches. The two groups had no differences in physical activity.

The investigators were surprised by these results. Based on prior research, they had expected to find less physical activity, less healthy diets, and more obesity in the home-schooled children. They got just the opposite on every measure but physical activity.

Students getting school lunches got less fiber, fruits, and vegetables. They got more calories, trans fats, sugar, salt, potassium, and calcium.

This is a small study of 95 children from a single, specific area, so it’s not the final word by any means. The authors are quick to point that out and call for more definitive research in larger populations.

Regardless, it’s a striking finding. It suggests the sweeping changes of 2012 in school nutrition standards were wise. It shows how bad school lunch could be under the old rules. Let’s hope we find better results under the new standards.

Click here to read the study in Obesity.

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.