Peanut Butter Consumption Could Prevent Childhood Obesity

March 10th 2016
Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor
Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor

Consuming a moderate amount of peanuts or peanut butter could prevent childhood obesity.

Childhood obesity continues to be a growing problem, as it currently affects 1 in 6 US children and adolescents. However, consuming a moderate amount of peanuts or peanut butter could prevent it.

Researchers at the University of Houston recently conducted a study published in theJournal of Applied Research on Childrenin which 257 Hispanic middle school children—a population at high risk for being overweight or obese—were guided through a 12-week physical education and nutrition education program. About half of the students were given a snack of peanuts or peanut butter 3 to 4 times per week, while the remaining children received the snack less than once a week.

Following the 12-week intervention and an additional 12-week period in which the participants continued to snack on peanuts, the research team found that the children who received peanut products more frequently saw a greater decrease in their overall body mass index (-0.7 kg/m2) compared with those who weren’t given peanuts as regularly (-0.3 kg/m2).

The study authors explained that children tend to consume more snacks after school, especially if they don’t have access to full meals during the school day. This habit, coupled with a lack of physical activity, often leads kids to gain an unhealthy amount of weight during their adolescent years.

“We have a lot of kids skipping meals for a whole bunch of reasons,” said researcher Craig Johnston, PhD, in a press release. “What we found is that kids get home from school around 4 PM. There's less supervision by parents and less structure. Kids are sitting down at the TV and eating, eating, eating because they really didn't eat at school.”

By replacing unhealthy and energy-dense snacks with healthier, nutrient-rich choices such as peanuts, parents and schools can help children better manage their appetite and weight, the study authors concluded.

“Schools are doing a great job of teaching kids, getting them workforce ready, and a whole bunch of other things. We've just got to make sure that our kids are going to live long, happy lives with that kind of education,” Dr. Johnston stated.

Retail clinicians may be ideally situated to help manage childhood obesity, as arecent surveypublished inJAMA Pediatricsrevealed that many parents prefer bringing their children to a retail clinic over a pediatrician.

For example, retail clinicians can educate parents on appropriate weight norms for children so that they may better recognize whether their kids have reached an unhealthy weight. According to astudypublished in published inChildhood Obesity, 95% of parents with overweight children believed their child’s weight to be “just about the right weight,” as did 80% of parents with obese children.

“We need effective strategies to encourage clinician discussions with parents about appropriate weight for their child,” senior study author Jian Zhang, MD, DrPH,previously toldPharmacy Times. “This will be critical for childhood weight management and obesity prevention.”

Clinicians can also warns parents of the complications associated with childhood obesity, such as anincreased riskof hypertension. While educating children of these risks may not prove effective, clinicians can still instruct parents to serve their children more fruits and vegetables, as well as foods rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber, while cutting down their intake of sodium and certain fats.

Additionally, children should be encouraged to participate in at least 1 hour of physical activity every day.

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