An Obama-era change to school lunches could be linked to a drop in childhood obesity rates, a new study suggests.
The American Journal of Diseases of Children suggested that a modification of public school lunches that boosted the amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains students consumed could have lowered the body mass index of a swath of youth.
Dr. Aruna Chandran, social epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and lead researcher on this study, told the Associated Press that making early dietary changes can have lasting effects on children.
"You have the potential to really impact their excess weight gain over the course of their entire childhood," she said.
Over 14,000 students ages 5 to 18 were tracked from January 2005 through March 2020 but there was a significant drop in overall BMI around the time the Hunger Free Kids Act was passed.
In 2010, a study by the American Heart Journal suggested that poor nutritional school lunches were, at least in part, linked to childhood obesity. It noted other factors like decreased physical activity and excessive recreational screen time as contributors to childhood weight gain.
Former first lady Michelle Obama spearheaded the call to make school lunches healthier during the same year.
"The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act does still have impact in adolescents when they have such differences in dietary preferences, and the ability to purchase their own foods compared to younger children," Dr. Lauren Au, assistant professor at the University of California, Davis, told CNN.