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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DEVELOPMENT AND PREVENTION OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Changes in weight over the school year and summer vacation: Results of a 5-year longitudinal study

Authors
item Moreno, Jennette -
item Johnston, Craig -
item Woehler, Deborah -

Submitted to: Journal of School Health
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 14, 2012
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Studies have shown that children gain more weight during the summer months than during the school year. Our 5-year longitudinal study looked at the changes in standardized BMI (zBMI) of students entering kindergarten in order to further examine the impact of the school and summer environment on children’s weight. We collected heights and weights at the beginning and end of each school year for 3588 students that were between the ages 5 and 7. Overall, children lowered their BMI percentile during time spent in school and increased it during summer months. Time spent in school seems to be beneficial for student’s weight, especially for students who were overweight or obese. However, these results are alarming because weight gain during elementary school occurs primarily during the relatively short span of summer break.

Technical Abstract: Evidence suggests that children gain more weight during the summer months compared with the school year. In order to further examine the impact of the school and summer environment on children’s weight, we conducted a 5-year longitudinal study examining changes in standardized BMI (zBMI) of students entering kindergarten. Heights and weights were obtained at the beginning and end of each school year for 3588 ethnically diverse (Caucasian: 27.2%, Black: 29.0%, Hispanic: 26.4%, Asian 17.4%) students ages 5-7. A significant difference in change in zBMI during the school and summer months was found (-.52, 95% CI, -.59 through -.45, p less than .001; Wald chi*2 = 171.89, p less than .001). Overall, children decreased BMI percentile during time spent in school by 1.5 percentile points and increased by 5.2 percentile points during summer months. Differences in the velocity of weight gain were found across weight classification categories, with only overweight and obese children decreasing their zBMI during the school year. Time spent in school was shown to have a beneficial impact on students’ weight, especially for students who were overweight or obese. However, these results are alarming because weight gain during elementary school occurs primarily during the relatively short span of summer break.

Last Modified: 4/18/2014
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