Everyone's worried about obesity these daysand about kids who are dramatically overweight at earlier and earlier ages. A group of diabetes researchers at Bournemouth University and Poole Hospital in England tried out a campaign to get children to eat better.
What the researchers wanted to know: Does a campaign in primary schools to reduce consumption of carbonated beverages work? Do the kids drink less soda, and does that result in fewer overweight kids?
What they did: A diabetes development nurse spent one hour, four times in one year, with each of 15 classes in six schools in southwest England. Fourteen other classes were included as a control group. At the first session, children tasted fruit to learn about natural sweetness and looked at teeth submerged in cola; in later sessions, they competed to write healthy songs and raps and took a game-show-style quiz. The children were between 7 and 11 years old. Children in the control and intervention group filled out diaries for three days at the beginning and end of the year, recording what they drank. Their height, weight, and waist circumference were also measured at the beginning and end of the year and halfway through.
What they found: The program seemed to work. Students who'd been through the anti-soda sessions drank fewer carbonated drinks at the end of the year than at the beginning. While overweight and obesity went up by 7.5 percent in the control group, fewer kids who'd had the classes were overweight or obese by the end of the year compared with before the project started.
What this study means to you: Telling kids not to drink carbonated beverages seems to help prevent childhood obesity‑a hot topic when so many children are overweight and have obesity-related health problems.
Caveats: Since classes where children were getting educated on soda and classes where they weren't were in the same schools, some knowledge probably trickled out.
Find out more: An article on childhood obesity from the National Institutes of Health: http://www.nih.gov/
Read the article: James, J. et al. Preventing Childhood Obesity by Reducing Consumption of Carbonated Drinks: Cluster Randomised Control Trial. British Medical Journal. May 22, 2004, Vol. 328, p. 1237. Read it online at http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov.