The following is excerpted from an online article posted by StudyFinds.
Today’s school lunches are actually much healthier than what older generations had to eat decades ago. Even so, recent data reveals that as many as one in four U.S. lunches still have poor nutritional quality. What can be done? Scientists at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University believe aligning student meals to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans could have a positive impact on hundreds of thousands of children as they mature into adults.
The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommend that American meals feature far less sugar and salt, and much more whole grains. The team at Tufts says ensuring school lunches all over the country follow these guidelines could benefit the health of countless children.
“On average, school meals are healthier than the food American children consume from any other source, including at home, but we’re at a critical time to further strengthen their nutrition,” says senior author Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and Jean Mayer Professor of Nutrition at the Friedman School, in a university release. “Our findings suggest a real positive impact on long-term health and healthcare costs with even modest updates to the current school meal nutrition standards.”
f all schools fully complied with these new standards, it could potentially prevent more than 10,600 deaths per year due to fewer diet-related diseases and save over $19 billion annually in healthcare-related costs during later adulthood. The worst-case scenario, on the other hand, in which schools remained with their current food offerings, was estimated to only save a little over half as many lives and healthcare dollars.
The cost, meanwhile, of fully implementing new school meal standards has yet to be determined. However, previous alignments suggest it would add at least another $1 billion nationally to the cost of these programs. That may sound like a lot, but it’s actually only about five percent of the total predicted annual long-term healthcare savings this change would likely yield.
The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.