Field Notes

School Climate Can Affect Overweight Children for Life

Kids can be mean, and school-yard bullying can have serious immediate and long-term effects. One area of increasing concern in this regard is the possibility that overweight or obese children shoulder the brunt of bullying. With childhood obesity rates reaching unprecedented levels, this may translate into even more negative behavior being experienced by today’s kids. It’s also possible that children who are disliked by their peers may respond by becoming less active and more likely to overeat, compounding the issue even further.

It’s a vicious cycle, to say the least. Indeed, some research shows that obese children miss more school days than healthy-weight children. One reason may be because obese kids are unhappy due to being mistreated by other children; they may be avoiding school because of a negative emotional climate in the classroom.

To help address this important question and better understand the factors related to childhood obesity, researchers at Oklahoma State University and the University of Arkansas studied 1,139 first graders in 29 rural schools where obesity risk is especially high. Specifically, they tested their hypothesis that obese and overweight children are more disliked than their classmates. This study was important because, although there’s evidence that obesity carries with it a stigma, this has been studied primarily by using hypothetical questions. And it almost has never been tested by directly asking children how much they liked each of their classmates, and certainly not among children as young as 6 years old.

Each child was weighed and measured so that BMI could be calculated; this information was used to classify each child as having a healthful weight or being overweight or obese. Children were then shown photos of their classmates and asked how much (on a 1 to 3 scale) they liked to play with each child, and the researchers calculated a score for each child representing the average of their classmates’ ratings. Researchers used a similar procedure to determine how the teachers perceived each child’s acceptance by the other kids in his or her classroom.

According to both the children’s and teachers’ reports, both overweight and obese children were significantly more disliked than healthy-weight children. The researchers conclude, “It’s important to remember these children are only in first grade! So children with weight problems are experiencing a negative social environment very early in their educational experience. This is significant because other research shows that children who are rejected or unhappy in school have trouble learning. It also suggests one reason some children’s weight problems increase with age: If overweight children are disliked at school, they may be less likely to play actively on the playground, during physical activity classes, and after school. They also may be more likely to engage in emotional eating as a way to cope with feeling bad at school.”

These findings suggest that obesity prevention programs should start very early and should involve peers, not just the overweight children themselves. In this case, it may take a classroom.

— Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology


Vitamin D-Fortified Drink May Lower Heart Disease Risk
in People With Type 2 Diabetes

Daily intake of vitamin D-fortified doogh (a Persian yogurt drink) improved inflammatory markers in people with type 2 diabetes, and extra calcium conferred additional anti-inflammatory benefits, according to a recent study accepted for publication in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Inflammation is known to have a central role in the development of type 2 diabetes and its associated complications, such as cororary heart disease and stroke. Vitamin D carries benefits for skeletal health, but evidence of an anti-inflammatory effect from clinical studies in humans remains scarce.

“Our previous research showed that improvement of vitamin D status by regular daily intake of a fortified yogurt drink resulted in lowered blood glucose levels in diabetic patients,” says Tirang Neyestani, PhD, of Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran, and lead study author. “The current study found that consuming a vitamin D-fortified yogurt drink also decreased serum substances like highly sensitive C-reactive protein, which are known to have an inflammatory role.”

In this study, researchers conducted a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial over 12 weeks in 90 patients with type 2 diabetes. Study participants were randomly allocated to one of three groups to receive two 250-mL bottles per day of either plain doogh, vitamin D-fortified doogh, or calcium plus vitamin D-fortified doogh. Vitamin D levels, insulin resistance, and inflammatory markers such as highly sensitive C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, and adiponectin were measured in blood samples taken from study participants.

“Our study showed for the first time that adiponectin, a substance secreted by fat tissue that has an anti-inflammatory effect, increased when calcium and vitamin D-fortified doogh was consumed,” Neyestani says. “Our findings may offer interesting therapeutic options for diabetic patients.”

— Source: Endocrine Society