In Canada's ongoing battle against childhood obesity, one simple weapon appears to be working.
Over the past 12 years, six provinces have banned junk food from schools, and a new study says the measure is having a positive impact on student health.
"It's a small step in the right direction," said Philip Leonard, a health economist at the University of New Brunswick.
"Combined with other policies of this type, you can hope to see real difference over time." Leonard looked at the Body Mass Index (BMI) of 153,000 Canadians, aged 12 to 25, during an eight-year period. Within that sample, compiled from the annual Canadian Community Health Survey, more than 22,000 youths had been banned from buying junk food at school for at least one year.
His research revealed that for each year a student was exposed to a junk food ban, there was a corresponding 0.05 decline in their BMI, a value derived from height and weight. As a result, the students banned from junk food purchases at school for five or more years were, on average, about two pounds lighter than students who did not face a ban.
It may not sound like a big difference, but the findings send a strong message, said Leonard, "You wouldn't expect that a ban like this would suddenly change ....