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A randomized controlled trial conducted with over 400 school-aged children in Argentina showed gender differences in likelihood to adopt healthy lifestyle changes. The study, published in the most recent issue of the Pan American Journal of Public Health (PAJPH), found that girls were more prone to incorporate healthy foods into their diets, while boys failed to increase their intake of healthy foods. Both boys and girls participating in the intervention reduced consumption of foods such as hamburgers and hot dogs.
Over 200 children ages 9 to 11 attended workshops that promoted healthy eating, physical activity, and healthy bodies, while their parents and caregivers received education on dietary needs and the importance of physical activity for children. The workshops emphasized consumption of five healthy foods - fruits, vegetables, low-sugar cereal, orange juice, and skim milk - and the school snack bar added new offerings of pure orange juice, fruit, and low-sugar cereal to its selections. Researchers then measured changes in consumption of healthy foods as well as unhealthy items such as chocolate, candy, sodas, chips, hot dogs, and hamburgers.
Among girls, the program succeeded in increasing intake of healthy food items, but it failed to significantly reduce their intake of unhealthy foods. Both boys and girls reduced their consumption of hamburgers and hot dogs, but they also increased intake of sodas and sugary drinks.
One of very few studies conducted with low- to middle-income children in Latin America, the research highlights the importance of understanding which components of school programs may work for girls and boys.
In discussing the results, the authors suggest that girls may be more concerned with physical appearance from an early age and seem to be more affected by social learning interventions, while boys may be more affected by programs that involve physical activity. "A clear suggestion arising from this study is to consider gender differences when planning obesity prevention interventions for school-aged children," they conclude.
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release. Click 'references' tab above for source.
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11 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/267718>
PAHO/WHO. (2013, October 22). "Girls and boys respond differently to a school-based healthy diet intervention in Argentina." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
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