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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Academics & Research

Peanuts may be solution to child obesity


A recent study, hoping to find a way to decrease the rising rate of obesity in Mexican-American children, found that peanuts can be the perfect snack to help maintain a healthy weight.

Professors at the UH, Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Women’s University found that “although peanuts were relatively high in fat, the weight loss intervention of replacing energy-dense and unhealthy snacks with peanuts and peanut butter helped children maintain a healthy body weight.”

As principal investigator, UH assistant professor of health and human performance Craig Johnston played a major role in the study.

“What we did was part of a larger study at YES Prep charter schools where there are predominately Mexican-American kids,” Johnston said. “We went in trying to prevent and treat obesity by addressing things like diet, physical activity and behavioral issues.”

Hispanic middle school children who were at high risk for being overweight or obese agreed to a six-month program where they were given a snacking intervention for 12 weeks. The question was whether their Body Mass Index would be reduced if they snacked throughout the school day versus the children who did not.

They discovered that many of the children were skipping meals during the school day and then over eating once they got home with the lack of supervision.

“Skipping meals may be as bad as or even worse than overeating,” said Anaissa Ruiz Tejada, an engineering technology junior and personal trainer at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center. “Most adolescents think that skipping meals will make them lose weight, but eventually your body will enter into a state where it would rather hold on to your own fat, causing weight gain.”

Based on those observations, the researchers were on the lookout for a snack that promoted satiety, or the feeling of being full. Peanuts and peanut butter seemed to be the best option as it is a snack that people can eat daily and not be bothered by.

“Another good thing about peanuts for our purposes with middle school kids is we weren’t trying to give them anything that they viewed as some sort of diet food, just a food that they liked,” Johnston said.

By giving the students a snack of peanuts during the day and before loading the school bus, Johnston and his colleagues hoped it would help the kids make better decisions when they got home and contemplate what kinds of food they should eat and how much.

“My advice would be to pack small veggie and nut portions into small Ziploc bags and just bring those to school every day,” Tejada said. “That will help to keep up your energy levels.”

From the study, Johnston concluded that children who snacked throughout the day on something healthy, such as peanuts, actually lost more weight than the children who did not.

“Some people may feel that snacking throughout the day is wrong,” junior wide receiver Cameron Oliver said. “But it really can be vital to maintaining a healthy weight. Being an athlete, we are told by our coaches no matter what you are doing throughout the day snacks are always good for you, and they even encourage it.”

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