Children grow faster during the school year, study finds

Children grow faster during the school year, study finds


Children grow faster during the school year: Year 1s gain extra 4mm between September and April, study finds

  • Experts found children grow faster during term time from September to April 
  • Pupils who put on the most weight during summer saw their growth slow most 
  • Children tend to eat better during term time than during the holidays 

Children grow faster during school terms, a study claims.

Researchers found Year 1 pupils shot up an extra half a millimetre a month on average between September and April.

It is though that the routine of school timetables helps youngsters eat and sleep better.

Previous research has shown that children eat more junk and leave the house less during school holidays. 

The researchers also say that ‘exposure to the daily light-dark cycle’ — the amount of time spent awake in daylight hours — may promote growth.

Children grow an extra half a millimeter a month during the school year, a study suggests

Graph shows: The change in height over each school year from the age of five in term time (numbers on their own) compared to summer months (S) over five years

Graph shows: The change in weight over each school year from the age of five in term time (numbers on their own) compared to summer months (S) over five years

Obese children that live within a half mile of a grocery store selling fresh fruit, vegetables and meat are more likely to lose weight, a study finds.

Researchers at New York University (NYU) investigated the results of a city-wide program that handed tax cuts to supermarkets selling more fresh products in ‘food deserts’, where little is available.

The city’s Food Retail Expansion Program to Support Health (FRESH) was slammed by retailers after only backing at least eight supermarkets in 12 years, with previous research suggesting it was largely ineffective.

But today’s study — the first to look at more than one supermarket — shows the opposite, with obesity rates dropping significantly near stores.

Researchers are calling for more subsidized supermarkets to open, saying the shops ‘might play an effective role in addressing… childhood obesity’. 

Experts from the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas followed 3,588 children for five years, from 2005 to 2010.

Children were recruited from 41 schools in the Fort Bend Independent School District around the city of Sugar Land.

Nurses measured their height and weight twice a year in September and April to determine changes in the holiday and term months.

Their body-mass index (BMI) scores — a measure of obesity — were recorded to see how height gain differed in children of different body types.

Just over half (52.5 per cent) of the children were classified as ‘persistently healthy weight’, while 22.6 per cent were classified as ‘chronically overweight or obese’.

The study, published Frontiers in Physiology, did not specify what BMIs these classifications included.

Results showed children grew significantly more quickly in the school year compared to the summer months.

The rate of growth dropped by 5 per cent in the chronically overweight or obese group, compared to 4 per cent in the persistently healthy weight cohort.

Children’s BMIs increased most during summer, with the probability of becoming overweight or obese increasing most sharply from April to September.

The children with the healthiest weights saw their BMI increase by around 1 per cent over the summer months. 

Author Dr Debbe Thompson, a children’s nutritionist at Baylor College of Medicine, said: ‘This differential seasonal impact of height and weight on BMIz lead to a healthier BMIz status during the school year.’

The experts said the cause of the increased growth during the school year is not clear.

But they said those at greatest risk of becoming obese had the slowest growth over summer — meaning they would put on the most bodyfat over summer.

Author Dr Craig Johnson, an obesity expert at the University of Houston, said: ‘It’s possible that the demands of the school year alter children’s exposure to the daily light-dark cycle, which may cause the seasonal pattern in height. 

‘Additional studies on children who receive year-round schooling might help to answer this question.

‘What is clear is that children at the greatest risk of becoming overweight and obese have a less pronounced seasonal impact of height gain on BMIz, indicating they would benefit from obesity prevention efforts throughout the year.’ 

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