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March 14, 2008
Preschool Intervention Curbed Trend
Secondhand Smoke Hikes Tots' Toward Obesity
Kids in program ate less junk food, more fruits and vegetables
WEDNESDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- A preschool-based
weight control intervention program instilled healthy eating habits
in children aged 2 to 5, a new study shows.
The study, by researchers at the University of Miami Miller School
of Medicine, included children from ethnically diverse, low-income
families who went to eight subsidized child-care centers in Miami
Dade County. The children were assigned to either an intervention
Magnesium May Lower Risk for Those in the intervention group received a six-month home- and preschool-based
Some Strokes in Male Smokers obesity prevention program. The preschool part of the program included the following
z The menu promoted water as the primary beverage for children and staff;
offered only skim or 1 percent milk; limited juices and other sweetened beverages; and included fruits and vegetables as snacks as often as possible.
z Teachers were educated weekly about how to incorporate lessons about
nutrition and physical activity and how to better understand and overcome children's cognitive, cultural and environmental barriers to implementing a healthy low-fat, high-fiber diet.
The family part of the program, designed to reinforce what the children learned at day
care, included: monthly parent dinners to educate parents about food labels, portion sizes and the food guide pyramid; newsletters that featured topics such as picky eaters, healthy cooking tips, healthy fast food choices, and recipes for healthy snacks; and at-home activities such as sampling different vegetables and various types of
When they compared the children in the study group to those in the control group,
the researchers concluded that the program is an effective obesity prevention strategy.
"While 68.4 percent of children were at normal weight at the start of the study, this increased to 73 percent at follow-up. Also, the percentage of children who were at riskfor overweight decreased from 16 percent to 12 percent," study senior author Sarah
E. Messiah, a research assistant professor in the division of pediatric clinical research, said in a prepared statement.
Compared to children in the control group, those in the intervention program ate less junk food, more fruits and vegetables, and drank less juice and more 1 percent milk. On average in the intervention group: chip consumption decreased from daily to
none; cookie consumption decreased 50 percent; children ate 25 percent more fresh
fruits and vegetables; water consumption increased 20 percent while juice consumption decreased 50 percent; and children drank 20 percent more 1 percent milk.
"In the control sites, cake and cookie consumption actually increased 35 percent and 75 percent, respectively, while average fresh fruit and water consumption decreased,"
"We are hoping that our study will impact policy around the country leading to
healthier standards for meals served at child-care centers. If we are successful in improving attitudes toward nutrition and physical activity in early childhood, we can potentially influence adult behavior and begin to hope that the public health epidemic
The study was to be presented Wednesday at the American Heart Association's
Conference on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism, in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"Nobody would dispute that we are experiencing an epidemic of obesity in this
country," study co-author Ruby Natale, an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics, said in a prepared statement. "Children as young as 7 years old are experiencing health consequences of being overweight, suggesting that intervention must occur as early as possible and involve the entire family."
The Nemours Foundation has more about overweight and obesity in children
SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, March 12, 2008
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