school children
[Representational image] Do schools influence the body weight of children?reuters

School children spend lot of time in their educational institutions and with their friends. It gives them a chance to access unhealthy foods, which will eventually result in obesity.

A new study by Caroline Fitzpatrick, a researcher of Concordia University, elaborates the role  played by educational institutions in increasing the children's body weight.

According to the study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, schools surrounded by the unhealthy food environments, such as fast-food restaurants and convenience stores, can influence the children's weight to a great extend.

After analysing the lifestyle of 431 elementary school students of 246 schools located in the Quebec province of Canada, the researcher came to the conclusion that schools may influence a child's weight.

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"The school food environment is a particularly attractive target for intervention since the vast majority of children spend so much of their time in school," said Fitzpatrick.

The study states that school going children between the ages of 10 and 12 have high amount of central body fat due to the consumption of low quality food.

Central body fat is described as a fatty tissue that is stored between the abdomen and the waist. It reportedly posses high health risk than fats stored in other parts of the body.

"Central body fat was assessed using X-ray technology. This provided us with precise measures of children's lean and fatty body mass. Our analyses took into account several potentially confounding factors, including family socioeconomic status and parental weight," said the researcher.

"Researchers, health-care practitioners and stakeholders recognize preventing and reducing childhood obesity requires a multi-faceted approach — one that takes into account its biological (e.g. genetic), psychological (e.g. stress levels) and social-environmental causes (e.g. the influence of factors such as neighbourhood and poverty)," she added.

Fitzpatrick also said that social and economical causes have an increasing interest when compared to the biological and psychological factors of obesity. 

However, since the study on food environment inside the educational institutions were solely based on interviews and the sample was restricted to "Caucasian children", it may not be true to wider populations.

"In order to assess whether our findings applied to a wider population of children, replications with lower-risk youth and ethnically diverse populations are needed," said the researcher.

The study also recommends some measures to create healthier food environments in elementary schools to keep the children healthy.