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Health Team

Study Aims to Reduce Type 2 Diabetes in Children

Posted February 27, 2008 1:11 p.m. EST
Updated February 29, 2008 3:07 p.m. EST

— As the prevalence of overweight children grows, so does Type 2 diabetes.

The UNC School of Nursing is coordinating a federally funded program in six North Carolina schools to fight diabetes, and it includes more gym time for kids and healthier choices in the cafeteria.

The three-year study's objective is to reduce the incidence of Type 2 diabetes in middle-school students.

Called the Healthy Study, the program makes physical education a priority.

“They seem to be happy. Even ones who weren't participating initially have seemed to come on board,” said Tara Blackshear, a physical education coordinator.

Meredith Baysa said the structured routines had a big influence on her and her classmates.

“They might not be noticing it, but they're more active and they want to go to P.E. more,” she said.

The program extends to the classroom, where they study good nutrition. Then, they practice what they learn in the cafeteria.

“We're decreasing the average fat content in all the foods, including breakfast,” said study dietitian Jessica Caveness.

Caveness helps develop the menus, increasing choices of fruits and vegetables and cutting out sugar in vending machines. Most schools are offering healthier choices, but Dunn Middle School, because of the program, is taking it one step further.

The school serves a three-bean salad and deli turkey wrap. Whole grain in tortillas, bread and pizza crust is how they sneak more fiber into meals. Not all items are a hit with students, at least not right away.

“It takes a while for you to like something that you've maybe never tried before,” Caveness said.

Student Justin Malloy said all schools should be like his.

“I think they'd really love this program. We're a lucky school to have this,” he said.

The study has a year and a half to go before it yields information on much impact the program has on diabetes.