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Friday, December 09, 2011

Bogus school obesity study

There is a program to convince parents that they are incompetent to rear their own kids. Parents feed their kids junk food, and too much of it, making kids fat. But parents are advised not to tell their kids to avoid getting fat, or else they might cause psychological body image and self-esteem problems.

Here is a SciAm story, taken from myhealthnewsdaily.com:
In the struggle against widespread obesity that begins in early childhood, new research indicates that schools may be the best place to start a solution.

Australian researchers examined 55 interventions in previous studies and concluded that school-based programs were key in getting kids to healthy weights, and there was little evidence that these programs would have a negative effect on young students' self-images.

"Obesity prevention programs in general are not harming children," said lead author Elizabeth Waters, chair of child public health at the Melbourne School of Population Health. However, "programs that don't make a commitment to preventing body image issues might hurt children by stigmatizing overweight children or send unhealthy messages about body image," she said.
The idea is that schools should take over obesity prevention, and parents should just yield to the experts. But the study does not support that view at all. Here is what it actually says:
We found strong evidence to support beneficial effects of child obesity prevention programmes on BMI, particularly for programmes targeted to children aged six to 12 years. However, given the unexplained heterogeneity and the likelihood of small study bias, these findings must be interpreted cautiously.
So this was not really a study of children. It was a survey of the literature on obesity preventions programs that published results. And sure enough, most of those that bragged in print were claiming positive results. The big majority of the studies did not even look at the possibility of adverse effects, so it was concluded that the programs were harmless.

More and more the schools are serving breakfast and lunch, and cutting down on recess and exercise. Elementary schools serve sugary snacks all day long. If boys get restless, they are sent to the school psychologist to get a ritalin prescription. The schools have anti-bullying programs to try to prevent anyone from making fun of the fat kids. Teachers and parents are told not to discourage weight gain, for fear of triggering anorexia nervosa in girls. A Hollywood movie star lost visitation of his 11-year-old daughter when he called her a pig.

The Wash. Post has news of a study by the "Environmental Working Group" that discovered that many breakfast cereals have a lot of sugar in them. Is that really news? The sugar content is printed right on the box. It says that some cereals have more sugar than a Twinkie.

Yes, kids are fatter than they used to be. Schools are making the problem worse, not better. So-called researchers nearly always conclude that we need more govt-funded programs to reduce parental responsibility. But the schools cannot solve this problem, and they cannot do better than parents with common sense.

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