Researchers supported by the Population Dynamics Branch tracked the body mass index of 19,450 students to examine changes in weight. They found that children’s weight gain between the 5th and 8th grades was not associated with either the introduction of or the duration of exposure to snack foods, such as soft drinks, candy bars, or chips, made available in school settings. These snack foods are often available to students through vending machines and other sources.
The researchers hypothesized that middle- and high-school schedules may be so regimented that they leave little time for unsupervised eating. Scientifically, the findings underscore that childhood obesity is a complex problem linked to the interplay of many genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors.
The findings also highlight the need for a range of behavioral-related research to provide a solid base for health policy. These types of studies also show that ultimately, even solutions that may seem self-evident may not prove helpful (PMID: 22611291).