Study examines benefits of healthy eating in school

By Karen Willmer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

A new study by the University of Northumbria will assess how
healthy eating affects children's behaviour and achievement in
primary schools.

Pupils at eight primary schools in North Tyneside will be given four healthy food options from today in a new 12-month scheme assessing the benefits of such foods. The study is being done amidst increasing concern about rising obesity rates and the effects of a steady diet of soda and fatty foods on children's health. The food industry has been attempting to meet the concerns by developing healthier snack and drink options. The results of the study could provide further ammunition for critics pushing to remove high-calorie snacks and sugary drinks from schools. The £250,000 study will provide children with a breakfast of cereal, toast, fruit, orange juice or milk and a healthy main school lunch, as well as a morning and afternoon snack of a bread-based snack and juice or milk. Researchers will then study the children's weight, attention, and sickness levels, comparing these to results from local schools not participating in the study. "Concentration and performance at school are affected by hunger and diet,"​ the North Tyneside Council said. "Instilling good eating habits at an early age by making small changes in a child's diet can have a long term effect on their health, helping growth and development but also helping to prevent obesity." ​ A recent study conducted in the US by Kellogg suggested 70 per cent of children throw away healthy snacks, and 54 per cent of children want snacks that are sweet, suggesting manufacturers need to make snacks more nutritious while still maintaining the appeal. The study suggested 97 per cent of parents look for healthier snacks for their children, highlighting the reasoning behind this scheme in North Tyneside. If results reveal children operate better from four stable meals, food manufacturers may need to find ways of tapping into the healthier school meals market, while still appealing to children's taste. The North Tyneside Council said this week that 15 per cent of under 11s in the borough are obese, and quotes current forecasts claiming that 30 per cent of all UK children and young people will be obese by adulthood. "Experts nationally have established the links between good nutrition and improved concentration, motivation and achievement by children,"​ said North Tyneside's mayor, John Harrison. "Free school food schemes previously offered in bothHullandFinlandhave also resulted in significant improvements in obesity levels."

Related topics: R&D, Health

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