An extensive study in Dutch schools has shown promise for reversing the course of childhood obesity. The program, dubbed Dutch Obesity Intervention in Teenagers (DOiT), was run in 10 schools. As a result, teenagers’ consumption of sugar-laden sodas was dropped and body-fat was reduced.
The program specifics included some basic common sense measures: a boost in the students’ exercise levels, and reducing junk food and sugary drinks. The students also had 11 health lessons, and schools were encouraged to increase gym classes and make changes in cafeteria food.
Over a 20-month period, students at 10 schools that ran the program successfully reduced soda intake, compared with their peers at eight other “control” schools.
The one caveat was that benefits tended to wane toward the end of the study. According to lead researcher Dr. Amika S. Singh of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the findings suggest that the school-based programs can be effective, but that they need to be kept in place.
When it comes to health-education programs, teenagers may benefit more than younger children, because their maturity level makes them better able to grasp the benefits of diet and exercise changes, and then implement them.