Recent studies show that gardening interventions in schools may improve metabolic parameters in children.
Childhood obesity rates in the United States increased from 5% in 1978 to 19.3% in 2018. Low socioeconomic status is associated with an increased risk of childhood obesity, and Hispanic ethnicity is associated with an increased risk of obesity-related metabolic diseases such as: Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Increasing fruit and vegetable (FV) intake reduces the risk of developing metabolic diseases, but most children in the United States do not meet the recommended daily intake of FV. FV intake is lowest among obese children of low socioeconomic status.
Evidence-based interventions should be implemented to improve FV intake in children and reduce the prevalence of metabolic disease. School-based gardening interventions have been associated with increased FV intake, but few data have been collected on the effects of gardening interventions in high-risk groups such as Hispanic individuals.
Researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial (RCT) using a horticultural intervention called Texas Sprouts to determine the effects of the intervention on metabolic outcomes in elementary school students.
The Texas Sprouts study was a school-based cluster RCT conducted over three waves from 2016 to 2019. Sixteen elementary schools were randomly assigned to an intervention or control group.
School selection criteria include that at least half of the children attending are Hispanic, the majority participate in free or discounted lunch programs, and the school is within 60 miles of Austin, Texas. , included the absence of a garden or garden program prior to the survey. .
Schools in the intervention group formed a gardening instruction committee, and members of the committee assisted the construction of vegetable gardens at the school approximately 4 months before the baseline measurement. Her 3rd through 5th grade students took her one-hour lesson on her Texas sprouts 18 times, separate from a trained nutrition and horticulture educator.
Topics discussed in the curriculum include healthy cooking and FV preparation, nutritious food choices in a variety of settings, consumption of locally produced foods, low-sugar beverages made with fresh FV, Health benefits of FV, including how to maintain a healthy diet in the food-dessert community. , and food equity and community service.
Tailored to Hispanic individuals, each lesson included a garden taste test or cooking activity. Control schools were delayed in intervention.
Anthropometric data were collected at baseline and after intervention, along with demographic data recorded through questionnaire packets. Optional blood sampling allowed us to collect data on metabolic parameters. Approximately 92% of parents completed the baseline survey and approximately 33% of children completed the baseline blood draw.
Of the children who completed the baseline blood draw, 63% also completed the post-intervention follow-up blood draw. Homeostatic model assessments of blood glucose, insulin, insulin resistance, and lipid measurements were performed on these children.
Approximately 69% of participants were Hispanic and the average age of participants was 9.28 years. Participants in the intervention group had improved glucose control and decreased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol compared with the control group. This demonstrates improvements in metabolic parameters in high-risk individuals after a garden-based intervention.
Davis JN, Landry MJ, Vandyousefi S, Jeans MR, Hudson EA, Hoelscher DM Impact of school-based nutrition, gardening, and cooking interventions on metabolic parameters in at-risk youth: a secondary analysis of cluster-randomised clinical trials. JAMA net open2023;6(1):e2250375.doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.50375