Strict Food Laws Are Helping Children Lose Weight

Research shows that states’ efforts to curb childhood obesity are working—to a certain extent.

New research shows that children who live in states with strict food laws, such as soda bans in school, gain less weight than those who live in states with weak or no laws at all. Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

No matter how you feel about the government’s efforts to reduce childhood obesity, apparently they’re working.

A new study has found that children who live in states with strict food laws have lower obesity rates than those without. These laws include those that ban certain snacks or drinks, such as soda, from vending machines.

For the study, researchers tracked 6,300 public school students in 40 states from fifth to eighth grade. A law was classified as strict if it had detailed nutrition standards, while weaker laws simply offered health recommendations.

Researchers found that over the three-year study, students who lived in states with strong laws gained less weight than those who lived in states with weak or no nutrition laws—approximately 2.25 fewer pounds.

But it’s also worth noting that consistency of laws played a key role in the results. For example, throughout the study, various states enacted stronger nutrition policies for schools. However, many only focused on elementary schools. In those same states, middle school students gained as much weight as those in states that had weaker food laws.

The team was quick to note that the results don’t prove the laws are the sole reason the children remained at healthy weights. Still, the authors argued that these results “have important implications for federal and state policies targeting childhood obesity,” according to a statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The authors also wrote, “Based on our results, elementary school laws may have a limited impact unless reinforced by strong codified laws at higher grade levels.”

The full study was published in the journal Pediatrics