Over the last three decades, the number of overweight children living in the United States has risen drastically. Children who are overweight many times suffer health effects that are associated with obesity. Health risks include high blood pressure, type II diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, orthopedic complications and others. Overweight children are more likely to become obese adults.
It may be a difficult task for children and adults to determine the amount of dietary fat in the foods they eat. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) issue Dietary Guidelines for all Americans in an effort to promote optimal health. Even with the institution of federally mandated guidelines almost 70% of Americans are either overweight or obese (Ogden et al., 2006). Some would argue that the Dietary Guidelines are confusing and ambiguous. A study done by Keenen, Abusabha and Robinson (2002) investigated these allegations. Their findings revealed that of all the participants surveyed, more than half were unaware of federal policy about nutrition and had never heard of a document containing the government’s dietary guidelines.
Researchers also found that the most confusing section of the dietary guidelines was on dietary fat. It was reported that the use of percentages involving daily value (%DV) of dietary fat confused most people. After participants were told that the recommendation for total fat was no more than 30% of their daily caloric intake, they were asked to state the percentage of calories that should come from saturated fats. Their answers ranged from 0% to 50%. Confusion over the Dietary Guidelines may lead to underreporting of fat intake by consumers.
Other studies regarding dietary fat intake, found inconsistencies in the way people report food consumption. Researchers often use food frequency questionnaires (FFQ) to measure dietary intake and the adherence to dietary recommendations. It has been reported that no FFQ has been developed that can accurately and rapidly measure dietary lipids and energy. A study done by Curtis, Musgrave and Klimis-Tavantizis (1992) tested a FFQ against a 4-day dietary record or food diary. It was found that a FFQ was a more practical instrument for assessing dietary fat intake and adherence to dietary guidelines if the FFQ followed certain guidelines. The guidelines included, 1) the use of pilot studies for the establishment of specific criteria in the FFQ; 2) limit the number of items on the FFQ, i.e. group together different types or brands of ice cream and figure an average for total calories; and 3)use the same data base for questionnaire and dietary records.
Researchers have consistently shown that healthy dietary behaviors are associated with dietary awareness and knowledge. A study done by Berg, Jonsson and Conner (2002) investigated whether there was a relationship between dietary knowledge and food choices among schoolchildren when it came to breakfast choices and fat and fiber content. Researchers interviewed approximately 200 schoolchildren between the ages of 11-15. Results revealed that 25% of the students were consistently positive toward dietary fat and 68% indicated that fat intake should be limited. A logistic regression analyses was performed and the strongest predictor of consumption of reduced fat milk was a positive attitude towards a limited fat intake.
Despite the fact that dietary behaviors can be difficult to modify, a vast amount of health education programs use a variety of incentives to promote weight loss. Some studies suggest that merely conducting a needs assessment among samples of the population may not be enough to actually deliver a healthy awareness program. According to Forthofer & Bryant, (2000) a technique called audience segmentation can assist health educators in targeting segments of a population to deliver programs aimed at a unique subgroup of the population. In this study, emphasis is given to the fact that public health programs tend to allocate funds to areas of greatest need or risk. However, whether the public is likely to respond to the program is not known until after implementation has occurred. Researchers investigated a study done in Florida to promote screening services for breast and cervical cancer.
The Role of Music
A recent study hypothesized that the use of music in a nutrition education program will increase knowledge among children. In the study, seventh and eighth grade children were exposed to a music CD informing them about proper nutrition, specifically the difference between dietary fat. The children were given a lecture on nutrition and given a brochure reiterating the information presented to them on the music CD.
Knowledge was measured using a questionnaire developed by the researchers tailored to the music CD. To establish a baseline, the first questionnaire was administered before the presentation. The second questionnaire was administered after the music CD and the third questionnaire was given after the lecture and brochure was passed out. RESULTS: A significant increase in the amount of correct answers was revealed when comparing the last test to the first. Children were able to accurately answer questions regarding dietary fat, nutrition labels and risk for disease after they listened to the music CD, a lecture and reviewed the brochure. The results of this study warrant future studies.
As was noted by ÄrnÄec, Wilson and Prior (2006), research as early as 1949 has investigated the possibility of music enhancing learning abilities. However, study outcomes have produced mixed results. Future research should address the efficacy of music to increase knowledge regarding nutrition among children and adults from diverse backgrounds.
An area of interest would be a follow-up study with the same students who participated in this study to determine how much of the information presented can be recalled. A similar presentation to different groups of children for the comparison of results is also warranted.
In Conclusion, the rate of overweight children and young adults has risen drastically in the United States. Several programs are in effect to try to combat the rise of obesity among children. The present study utilized music as a medium to educate children about proper nutrition. Children attending the 7th and 8th grade participated in a presentation regarding nutrition. They were tested before and after the presentation. Statistical analysis revealed a significant increase in correct answers. The results of the present study warrants future studies investigating the use of music in a nutrition awareness program aimed at children and adults of diverse backgrounds.
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