Weight Status Among Adolescents in States That Govern Competitive Food Nutrition Content

This article provides evidence that competitive food laws are associated with adolescent weight gain—students exposed to stronger laws gained less weight on average than students in states without such laws.

Objective height and weight data were gathered from 6,300 students from 40 states. Weight change was measured from 5th grade to 8th grade.

Competitive foods and beverages sold in vending machines, á la carte lines, and other locations such as stores were governed by codified laws within the state. States were classified as having strong, weak, or no competitive food laws in 2003 and in 2006. Association between baseline state laws and student weight change were estimated as were the changes in laws over time with changes in student weight.

Key Findings:

  • Students exposed to strong laws at baseline gained fewer body mass index units than those students in states with no laws. They were also less likely to remain overweight or obese over time.
  • If students were exposed to consistently strong laws throughout their grade levels, they gained fewer body mass index units.

This study shows the importance of law strength and consistency in regulating competitive food nutrition content. Strong language and awareness across all grade levels is imperative, especially now as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is under way.