“Obesity is the most pressing issue that we have facing us today,” said Assistant Professor Craig Johnston who studies obesity and school-based interventions. “We’d like to think it’s preventable, but where I sit right now, there hasn’t been a lot that we’ve shown that’s very effective on a large scale.”
Johnston says intervention to help children change their lifestyle need to be ones that they’ll adhere to, and one answer may be in snacking. On peanuts to be specific.
For 12 weeks, middle school students from three Houston schools participated in a health program that included a snacking intervention—eating peanuts to curb the after school, at home, out-of-control eating.
“We have a lot of kids skipping meals for a whole bunch of reasons,” he said. “What we found is that kids get home around 4 p.m. There’s less supervision by parents and less structure. Kids are sitting down at the TV and eating, eating, eating because they really didn’t eat at school.”
Johnston and his research colleagues found that students who regularly snacked on peanuts before they got on the bus home saw a decrease in their body mass index compared to those students who didn’t. And everyone likes peanuts, which is not the case with broccoli, carrots or other health food.
“We don’t want our kids to get overly hungry, and we’ve got to find some creative ways to make sure that they’re not doing that,” Johnston said. “What are some socially acceptable ways that we can say, ‘here are some foods that you can eat to help manage your weight and manage satiety.’”
The research is published in the Journal of Applied Research on Children.
“Schools are doing a great job of teaching kids, getting them workforce ready, and a whole bunch of other things. We’ve just got to make sure that our kids are going to live long, happy lives with that kind of education.”
Innovative research is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez