Healthy Eating Campaigns Stink, Do Nothing To Prevent Childhood Obesity

The federal government is spending over $1 billion on nutrition education this year, and it’s probably a waste of money, according to the AP.

“Any person looking at the published literature about these programs would have to conclude that they are generally not working,” said Dr. Tom Baranowski, a pediatrics professor at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine who studies behavioral nutrition.

The results have been disappointing, to say the least:

• Last year, a federal pilot program offering free fruits and vegetables to schoolchildren showed fifth-graders became less willing to eat them than they had been at the start. Apparently, they didn’t like the taste.

• In Pennsylvania, researchers gave prizes to schoolchildren who ate fruits and vegetables. That worked. But when the researchers came back seven months later, the kids had reverted to their original eating habits: soda and chips.

• In studies where children tell researchers they are eating better or exercising more, there is usually no change in blood pressure, body size or cholesterol measures. They want to eat better and might even think they are, but they’re not.

Childhood obesity has quadrupled among children 6-11 since the 1970’s. Why? There’s a lot of debate. The only thing everyone agrees on is that the parents are the most important part of the equation. Ultimately, its up to them what their children eat. Whatever happened to “eat your lima beans?” (Full Disclosure: We love lima beans.)

It’s too bad parents have so much to fight against. Unhealthy food is cheaper than fruits and veggies. Unhealthy food is marketed to children, healthy food is not. Heck, unhealthy food tastes better than a lot of healthy food, particularly if you don’t know how to cook.

Let’s hear from parents in the comments. How are you coping? What are you feeding your kids?

Big-money battle on child obesity shows little success [Freep via Freakonomics]
(Photo:Clearly Ambiguous)