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Vending machines influence children’s diets

Eating a school lunch out of the vending machines might be a quick-fix but also have longer effects on children’s diets.

The food sold in public school vending machines influences the diets of the children who eat from them and can affect overall dietary intake and health, according to a recent study. The study, which the authors say is the first to examine this topic with a nationally representative sample, was published in the January Journal of Adolescent Health.

Eighty-three percent of the 152 schools sampled had vending machines that primarily sold food of minimal nutritional values (soft drinks, chips and sweets). Younger children were more influenced by the type of food sold in the vending machines.

If there were fruits and vegetables available, children ate them. If there were sweets available, children ate them.

“In younger grades, school vending machines were either positively or negatively related to the diets of the students, depending on what was sold in them,” the study said.

“Schools are in a powerful position to influence the dietary intake in children during a substantial portion of their day; therefore, attention to what food they sell is necessary in trying to improve the diets of children,” according to the study.

Many dentists are concerned that their patients are consuming record numbers of sugar-filled sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, and non-nutritious snacks that affect their teeth, according to the American Dental Association. These items generally have little if any nutritional value and over time they can take a toll on teeth. Eating patterns and food choices among children and teens are important factors that affect how quickly youngsters may develop tooth decay, the ADA says.

Information about this topic and more can be found on the ADA website at www.ada.org.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

1/19/2011

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