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Free fruit = kids eating fewer snacks

KRISTIANSAND, Norway, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- A program in Norway that offered free fruit to students in school resulted in children eating more produce and fewer unhealthy snacks, researchers say.

Nina Cecilie Overby of the University of Agder in Kristiansand and colleagues said the objective was to analyze changes in the frequency of consumption of unhealthy snacks -- soda, candy and potato chips -- from 2001 to 2008 in Norwegian children and assess if a school fruit program reduced the frequency of unhealthy snack consumption.

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The study involved 1,488 sixth- and seventh-grade pupils from 27 Norwegian elementary schools, who completed a questionnaire in 2001, and 1,339 sixth- and seventh-grade pupils from the same schools, who completed the same questionnaire in 2008.

In 2001, none of the schools had any organized school fruit program. In 2008, 15 schools participated in a program and 12 did not participate in any program.

The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found from 2001 to 2008, the frequency of unhealthy snack consumption decreased from 6.9 to 4.6 times per week. The decrease was largest in the schools that had been included in the national free school fruit program -- almost three times a week.

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The effect of the school fruit programs was significant in reducing the frequency of unhealthy snack consumption in children of parents without higher education -- from 7.8 to 4 times a week, the study said.

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