Over one year, German researchers studied over 1,000 primary school children, aged seven to eight years old. Half the children underwent a cardiovascular risk factor and obesity prevention programme and the rest received normal lessons.
Children in the intervention group were given extra tuition about healthy living, asked to reduce their consumption of sugary drinks and cut down on their computer and TV viewing. They also took part in two short bursts of exercise a day.
Four months after the study, children in the intervention group showed less weight gain, and the increase in body fat was half that of controls, the researchers said at a European Society of Cardiology conference in Barcelona.
Lead study author Professor Martin Wabitsch, from the department of paediatrics and adolescent medicine at the University of Ulm, said: ‘Children spend a lot of time in school where we can change their eating and physical behaviour. These interventions had a small but significant effect that is sustainable.’