School Garden-Based Programs Improve Metabolic Health in Children
“The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2.5 cups of vegetables per day for children 9 to 13 years old,” said Adriana Pérez, Ph.D., senior author of the study and professor of biostatistics and data science with the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health. “Texas Sprouts incorporates nutrition, gardening, and cooking components that improved glucose control and reduced bad cholesterol in children.”
Researchers examined 16 low-income primary schools in the greater Austin area with a mainly Hispanic student population from 2016 to 2019. Texas Sprouts intervention or delayed intervention was assigned at random to the schools.
Texas Sprouts lasted nine months and included the development of a Garden Leadership Committee, a quarter-acre outdoor teaching garden, 18 student gardening, nutrition, and cookery workshops provided by qualified educators during the school year, and nine monthly parent lessons. The delayed intervention was implemented the following academic year, and the intervention was identical.
Using an optional fasting blood sample, the team examined students’ height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) parameters, as well as their glucose, insulin, insulin resistance, and lipid panel – a blood test that assesses the amount of specific fat molecules known as lipids in the blood.
Garden-Based Treatments Improves Metabolic Health of Students
Texas Sprouts schools saw a 0.02% reduction in HbA1c, or mean blood sugar levels over the previous three months, and a 6.4 mg/dL reduction in bad cholesterol, indicating a lower risk of diabetes and prediabetes among this demographic. There was no effect of the intervention on glucose, insulin, insulin resistance, or other lipid markers.
According to the findings of the study, Perez believes that more elementary schools should implement garden-based treatments.
“Small increases in dietary fiber and vegetable intake, as well as reductions in added sugar intake, may have combined effects on lowering bad cholesterol and improving glucose control,” said Pérez, who is based in Austin.
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