Healthy food cost impacts kids choices: study

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition, Obesity

Researchers from the UK have identified some of the main barriers
to young people adopting a healthy lifestyle, including the cost of
healthy foods, hunger satisfaction, taste, and peer pressure.

A new study conducted by Professor Kamlesh Khunti and funded by the British Heart Foundation monitored diet choices and physical activity levels at five schools in Leicestershire, serving a predominantly South Asian community. The aim was to inform current knowledge of obesity - particularly amongst children - with a view to helping reverse current trends, and to see how effective an action research approach to modification of lifestyle could be in the schools. In particular the team found that when children had limited money to spend on food they were resistant to trying new products, sticking instead to time-honoured snack favourites. In addition, they saw less healthy options, like chips, as being better able to satisfy their hunger than fruit. Data on lifestyle habits was collected at baseline and follow-up from the school children, who were aged between 11 and 15 years. In addition, barriers to healthy lifestyle were identified through focus groups and observational visits. The researchers found that the pupils had some idea of what constitutes a healthy diet, but they gave a low priority to its impact on health. The action programme included measures such as changes by school meal providers and removal of vending machines, as well as lifestyle messages being incorporated into classroom subjects and physical activity Overall the researchers found that ways to overcome the barriers were quite hard to implement. "Worryingly, pupils' lifestyle habits remained poor even after the project had ended,"​ said Professor Khunti. He did say, however, that there were some limited changes, with improvements in dietary habits and more uptake of physical activity. The South Asian majority of the schools' populations is significant since previous studies have shown that people of this ethnicity living in Western countries are at greater risk of developing serious conditions like type-2 diabetes, insulin resistance and coronary heart disease. The path towards such diseases can begin with childhood eating habits. The publication of the research in the Journal of Public Health comes at a time when obesity is at the forefront of the agenda. Indeed just this week the UK government published its strategy on curbing obesity in the country. In the initial stages it is focusing not only on food, but also on measures aimed at children, their parents and educators, increasing physical activity, and long-term incentives to maintain health. Dr Charmaine Griffiths, spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation, said: "Evidence from research must be followed on with firm action from the government."​ She praised the obesity strategy as an example of such firm action. Source: Journal of Public Health (published online ahead of print November 2007) DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdm078 Title: "Primary prevention of type-2 diabetes and heart disease: action research in secondary schools serving an ethnically diverse UK population"​ Authors: K Khunti, M A Stone, J Bankart, P Sinfield, A Pancholi, S Walker, D Talbot, A Farooqi, and M J Davies

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