Traditionally schooled children report poorer diets vs. home-schoolers

Traditionally schooled children had significantly higher BMI, fat mass, trunk fat and body fat percentage compared with home-schooled children, according to a report published in Obesity.

In addition, traditionally schooled children displayed greater energy intake, poorer diet quality and higher levels of adiposity compared with home-schooled children, according to Michelle Cardel, PhD, RD, of the department of pediatric nutrition at the University of Colorado Denver, and colleagues.

“Based on previous research, we went into this study thinking home-schooled children would be heavier and less active than kids attending traditional schools,” Cardel said in a press release. “We found the opposite.”

Children aged 7 to 12 years were included in the study, which examined their dietary intakes during two 24-hour recalls and assessments for physical activity.

“Our findings suggest that home-schooled children and traditionally schooled children differ in regards to diet and adiposity parameters, but do not differ in time spent engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity,” researchers wrote.

Traditionally schooled children (n=48) consumed 120 total kcal more per day and reported increased trans fats, total sugar, added sugars and calcium intake and lower intakes of fiber, fruits and vegetables vs. home-schooled children (n=47; P<.05), according to data.

Furthermore, traditionally schooled children tended to consume significantly more calories, sugar, sodium, potassium, and calcium at lunch compared with home-schooled children (P<.05), researchers wrote.

Children who were traditionally schooled were more likely to consume larger amounts of trans fat, sugar and calcium (P<.05) and lower intakes of fiber, fruits and vegetables (P<.05), according to data adjusted for covariants, such as socioeconomic status. These children also demonstrated higher fat mass, body fat percentage and trunk fat (P<.01), researchers wrote. All of the children in this group purchased their food at school.

“We applaud the new school meal guidelines and efforts to give kids healthy options at school,” Cardel said in the press release. “We don’t know if we would have seen these same results if we had included children who brought their lunch to school. We think these differences may reflect the uniqueness of the home environment in home-school families but future research is needed to know for sure.”

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.