January 17/University Park, Pa./Pennsylvania State University -- A new study suggests junk food sold in schools is not making children fat. The researchers themselves say they could scarcely believe their own findings.

"We were really surprised by that result and, in fact, we held back from publishing our study for roughly two years because we kept looking for a connection that just wasn't there," said professor Jennifer Van Hook of Pennsylvania State University, lead author of the study,

The study follows data on thousands of children from kindergarten through eighth grade in the years 1998-2007.

They found that while children in grades 5-8 had increased access to junk food sold in school, not only was there no increase in the percentage of students who were overweight or obese, there was actually a decrease in obesity between grade 5 and grade 8, from 39.1% to 35.4%.

The results led Van Hook to conclude that attempts to reduce unhealthy weight in children should focus on the home and other environments outside of school.

"Kids are actually very busy at school. When they're not in class, they have to get from one class to another and they have certain fixed times when they can eat. So there really isn't a lot of opportunity for children to eat while they're in school, or at least eat endlessly, compared to when they're at home," she said. "As a result, whether or not junk food is available to them at school may not have much bearing on how much junk food they eat."

The study, which appears in the January issue of Sociology of Education, undermines the position taken by some governments and health agencies.

The World Health Organization said in a December 2010 report that junk food should not be sold in schools and playgrounds -- one of a series of recommendations aimed at promoting healthy eating and cutting obesity among children.

 From the January 17, 2012, Prepared Foods' Daily News.