Study Finds California Kids Consume Fewer Calories

Can the answer to the childhood obesity epidemic be as simple as “eat less and exercise more?” That seems to be the conclusion of the new study from the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine which found that California kids eat up to 158 fewer calories daily than kids in other states.

While the findings are interesting, what would be more interesting is determining why that is so. Part of the reason could be the peerless climate. Temperate weather and mostly-sunny skies welcome outdoor active play. On the other hand, the study’s authors credit the strict dietary rules in place in the state regarding school meals. The rules severely restricting the sales of high-sugar, high-calorie snacks and soda in vending machines in all K-12 schools could provide part of the answer.

According to Dan Taber, a University of Illinois research, the lower caloric intake numbers are entirely within the scope of what these laws were designed to accomplish.

But how important are 158 calories, really? Very, according to Dave Grotto, a Registered Dietitian and the President of Nutrition Housecall LLC, a Chicago-based nutrition consulting firm. Day in and day out, the measly 158 calories make a 15 pound difference in weight gained or lost over a course of a year.

Grotto’s views are backed by Marion Nestle who writes about nutrition for the San Francisco Chronicle. Nestle, who was a big supporter of the laws removing snacks from schools, says the even the insignificant 158 calories are, in reality, very significant She contends that even the number itself is not incidental. One hundred and fifty-eight is about the number of calories in one sugary 12-ounce soda of the kind no longer easily available to California’s school kids.

Yep, it sounds shocking. But here’s how the math works: 100 calories x 365 days = 36,500 calories. There are 3,500 calories are in a pound of fat. So that would be 10 pounds. 150 calories extra or less than what is needed to maintain weight will produce a 15 pound weight swing.

Of course, every person’s calorie needs are different, and metabolisms vary too, but for those who are battling weight, keeping the calories in check is critical.

Dan Taber says that the study doesn’t mark the end of the their research efforts. He hopes to continue collecting the caloric intake data over the long term to find out if California’s little numbers add up to big gains, or rather losses, or just are just short-term statistical blip.

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