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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

School lunches are an obesity risk

A study of more than 1,000 sixth graders in several schools in southeastern Michigan found that those who regularly had the school lunch were 29 percent more likely to be obese than those who brought lunch from home.

Spending two or more hours a day watching television or playing video games also increased the risk of obesity, but by only 19 percent.

“Most school lunches rely heavily on high-energy, low-nutrient-value food, because it’s cheaper,” said Dr. Kim A. Eagle, director of the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, and senior author of the paper, published in the December issue of the American Heart Journal. In some schools where the study was done, lunch programs offered specials like “Tater Tot Day,” he said.

The study concluded that obesity is present in 15% of our sixth graders and is associated with major differences in cardiovascular risk factors. Opportunities to improve childhood health should emphasize programs that increase physical activity, reduce recreational screen time, and improve nutritional value of school lunches.

Under a federal law passed in December, Department of Agriculture guidelines will limit the number of calories served at every school meal and require programs to offer a broad variety of fruits and vegetables — not just corn and potatoes.

Dr. Grout’s comment:

The results of this study are pretty consistent with what the adults are eating – fat on fat on salt on fat. According to a chef friend of mine, Greg Christian, who ran an organic school lunch program in Chicago for a few years, the children will almost certainly need to re-educate their taste buds. Before the 3rd grade, he found that the kids were eager to try almost anything. After 3rd grade they seem to have lost the ability of taste foods that are not heavily salted and sugared. They have to try new foods many times before developing a taste for them because their taste buds have become so habituated to sugar and salt that nothing else tastes good to them – everything else is bland.

Do you think this might possibly have something to do with the inclusion of Monosodium Glutamate in almost every food manufactured? That is, after all, the function of MSG – a flavor “enhancer.”  

The use of MSG allows companies to reduce the amount of real ingredients in their foods, such as chicken in chicken soup. In the 1960s, it was discovered that large amounts of MSG fed to infant mice destroyed nerve cells in the brain. After that research was publicized, public pressure forced baby-food companies to stop adding MSG to their products (it was used to make the foods taste better to parents).

According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, an author and neurosurgeon, there is a link between sudden cardiac death, particularly in athletes, and excitotoxic damage caused by food additives like MSG and artificial sweeteners. MSG is an excitotoxin, and according to Dr. Blaylock, can cause sensitive neurons in the brain to die.

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