Children Who Eat Vended Snack Foods Face Chronic Health Problems, Poor Diet, Study Finds

via ScienceDaily (Sep. 2, 2010) —

School children who consume foods purchased in vending machines are more likely to develop poor diet quality — and that may be associated with being overweight, obese or at risk for chronic health problems such as diabetes and coronary artery disease, according to research from the University of Michigan Medical School.

The study also looked at foods sold in school stores, snack bars and other related sales that compete with USDA lunch program offerings and found that these pose the same health and diet risks in school-aged children.

“The foods that children are exposed to early on in life influence the pattern for their eating habits as adults,” says lead study author Madhuri Kakarala, M.D., Ph.D., clinical lecturer of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School.

Previous studies assessing the nutritional value of school lunches and the impact they have on children’s overall health have found similar results, but this study is the first to look specifically at competitive foods and beverages — those sold at snack bars or vending machines, rather than through the USDA lunch program.

Researchers analyzed data from 2,309 children in grades 1 through 12 from schools across the country. Interviewers administered questionnaires to obtain 24-hour food intake data on a given school day. Second-day food intake data was obtained from a group of students to account for day-to-day usual intakes.

Among those surveyed, 22 percent of school children consumed competitive or vended food items in a school day. Usage was highest in high school, where 88 percent of schools had vending machines, compared to 52 percent of middle schools and 16 percent of elementary schools. Competitive food and beverage consumers had significantly higher sugar intakes and lower dietary fiber, vitamin B levels and iron intakes than non-consumers.

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