TCS Daily

For Their Own Good?

By Jonathan Robison, PhD, MS - February 16, 2006 12:00 AM

One of the hottest subject in state politics today is what's being served for lunch at school. Starting in July it will be illegal to sell pop, potato chips and other "junk" foods in elementary and middle schools in Arizona. Underway are plans to include high schools as well. Connecticut will soon vote on a bill that would ban all sodas, diet and regular plus sports drinks such as Gatorade and PowerAde from all schools.

Still other schools, as the Boston Globe reported in June 2004, have resorted to organized searches through children's lunch boxes, not for illicit drugs or weapons, but to enforce prohibitions of cupcakes from birthday parties and to confiscate other "contraband" foods. Cash-strapped schools in Texas have been fined thousands of dollars for selling Crystal Light (5 calories per eight ounce serving), bags of Chili Cheese Fritos that were deemed too large, and fried potato products twice in one week. Many states throughout the country have similar legislation pending and many more are watching carefully to see what happens.

The powers that be have decided that the strategy employed over the past few decades to control what adults are putting into their mouths has been such a rousing success that we should be applying that same strategy to our children. The best strategy to help young people to learn to make good choices is tell them what to do and what not to do, and if they don't listen and comply, pass laws to make sure they do.

The villains, of course, turn out to be all the usual suspects -- fatty foods, anything with sugar in it, such as pop, candy, chocolate, etc. The claim (and the justification for the need for legislation) is that these foods are making us fat and sick and that we cannot be trusted to choose wisely and so must be controlled to save us from ourselves.

But quite contrary to what is constantly promoted by the government and health establishment as fact, the science on the relationship between these foods and health is ambivalent, to say the least. For example, most studies that have examined the relationship between drinking pop and children's weight have failed to find a correlation of any significance. The same can be said of "junk food" in general. Many studies have found that, any way "the villain" is defined, with or without sugar-sweetened beverages included, intake does not appear to be associated with weight and fatter kids do not seem to eat more than their thinner counterparts.

Studies have also shown that children in schools where soft drinks are not sold don't drink significantly less or consume significantly less sugar -- certainly not enough less to make a difference in their weight or their health. Furthermore, research does not support a causal link for sugar and any chronic disease with the exception of dental caries. Finally, and again contrary to what is printed regularly in the popular press, it appears that children's caloric intake has remained remarkably stable over the last couple of decades.

So, what is the problem with trying to improve the lunch menu in our children's schools? It's not like anyone would claim that there isn't plenty of room for improvement. But if we aren't careful to make sure we base our interventions on science, we not only aren't likely to get the desired results, but we also may create unhealthy attitudes in the process.

There is simply no evidence that forcing children to eat in a certain way works. Ask any parent who has tried. Children have an innate ability to regulate their energy intake according to need. And research shows that the more this innate ability is overruled by outside regulations (and well-meaning health professionals and moms) the less likely they will be to grow up being able to do this for themselves. One result will be children who are less likely to eat because they are hungry and more likely to eat for other reasons. Another will be children who are likely to end up just as anxious about food and critical of their bodies as their parents.

If the goal is to make children thinner, there is even less evidence that restricting their food choices will do the trick. In fact, it would be very difficult to find any conclusion in the field of health for which there is less evidence. Just ask the millions upon millions of men, women and children who have gone on and off diets in this country every year for the past few decades.

Finally, it would certainly be remiss in this discussion not to at least mention the issue of "slippery slope." In terms of our relationship with food in this country we have already gone some of the way down that slope and we are in danger of losing our footing altogether. In the 1950s, the purpose of the original Basic Four Food Groups was to provide the minimal necessary nutrition for good health. Since then the guidelines have become ever more prescriptive, moving, over the years, through a focus on eating for prevention of chronic disease to the current focus on weight loss and management.

The latest rash of school policies continues this downhill slide -- promoting the philosophy that we must be told what to eat because we are incapable of deciding for ourselves and beginning to take the next step by legislating what can and can't be eaten and by providing consequences for those who do not comply.

Jonathan Robison holds a doctorate in health education/exercise physiology and a master of science in human nutrition from Michigan State University where he is adjunct assistant professor.


Just more BS from the left
Where did our freedom go? Why out the door of our public schools of course! From federal mandates for tobacco free, drug free and Christian free schools and threats to pull funding if constant tightening of these regulations aren't met, to sex ed for kindergarteners and agenda (usually left wing but not always) driven circula.

Look at how much time in a school year is spent on "social programs" like anti-bullying, acceptance training and a whole host of other usless bits of drivel that could be better served by instilling a little discipline and making the kiddies work on their studies. What can we expect from schools with all too many teachers that are left-wing zealots who think India is a state in the mid-west?

Now our kids must be forced to eat what one group says is a "proper" diet. I suppose we will soon see parents of kids who bring their own lunch get a threatening visit from the Department of Child Protective Services if they send their kids to school with penut butter and jelly sandwiches, sweatened orange juice, an apple and a cookie more than once a week?

Do we wonder why our schools rank so poorly when this is the kind of thing that drives policy in our schools?

freedom comes responsiblity
I personally don't want others telling me what to do, except where my actions will directly hurt someone like speed limits or something,

freedom entails responsibility, and that is okay, when did any agency take on the right to decide for others how they should live when it comes to the grey areas of life?

what gives them the right to decide such things on what you put into your bodies, such as food or even herbs or drugs, these agencies are simply nothing but people who want to impose their rules on others, and are hiding behind for their own good to do it to hide their real motives, rather it is for their own good, to fill their pockets and give themselves a sense of self righteousness or something.

all you out there who want to dictate to others on things like food drink or whatnot, stay out of my business, and stay out of parents business in raising their children, you have no right to interfere, you have crossed the line.

people rule you not the other way around.


For their own good, who would believe this when soda machine and candies are available for kids in school all in the name of revenue

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