A 12-week study published in the Journal of Applied Research on Children found that children who snacked on peanuts had a lower BMI after a 12 week period.
“Obesity is the most pressing health issue facing us today,” said Craig Johnston, HHP assistant professor. “We’d like to think it’s preventable, but from where I sit right now, there hasn’t been a lot shown to be very effective on a large scale.”
The study acknowledged that snacking is more common during the adolescent years and that the unhealthy eating habit can lead to an unhealthy weight. This is especially true if a student doesn’t have access to other meals during the school day.
“We have a lot of kids skipping meals for a whole bunch of reasons,” he said. “What we found is that kids get home from school 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.”
Following the 12-week intervention, students spent 12 more weeks maintaining the healthy snacking habit. At the end of the period, those students who received the snack more regularly experienced a decrease in their overall BMI (-.7kg/m2) compared to those who did not receive the regular peanut snack (-.3kg/m2). The researchers conclude that after-school programs and schools can replace energy dense, unhealthy snacks with peanuts to provide a healthier alternative for children (researchers in the study ensured students did not suffer from nut allergies).
Johnston says the fight against obesity needs creative solutions that help people manage their weight, appetite and hunger by offering socially acceptable food choices.
“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,” he said.