One centimetre less on a child's waistline "can translate into 15 per cent long-term difference in diabetes," Jonathan McGavock, a professor of pediatrics and child health at the University of Manitoba, said Monday.
"Small changes lead to big changes in overall health.
Overweight kids, they might experience three to four centimetres" less on their waistline, said McGavock, who is also a research scientist at the Manitoba Institute of Child Health.
The study by the University of Manitoba
and provincial government was conducted in the 2009-2010 school year in 19 randomly selected schools with 647 randomly selected students.
It was published in JAMA Pediatrics, a journal of the American Medical Association
McGavock conducted the research with Robert Santos, a community health scientist who is with Healthy Child Manitoba and a professor at the University of Manitoba.
The idea worked in British Columbia, said McGavock
"They developed a curriculum that healthy messages coming from older children would be taken up more effectively than if they came from teachers or health care professionals."
It's the same principle as when older kids read to younger kids to encourage literacy, or any number of mentoring programs in which older students bond with younger, McGavock
Each school chose a Grade 5 or 6 class to mentor a Grade 2 or 3 class, said McGavock
The only criterion was that the school neither pick out all the athletes nor the overweight kids.
"A big component was feeling good at any size," he
"Be comfortable with your own body weight."
The researchers will not name the schools involved, but they included remote northern First Nations schools, some in inner city Winnipeg and an affluent part of the city, and a mixture of rural schools.
Even where availability and affordability of nutritious food were issues, McGavock
said, "it still had an effect."
and Santos will present their findings to the province, which could develop a larger peer mentoring program.
Meanwhile, tracking those children's waist sizes has not been possible, but child health officials are compiling data on the 647 students - without knowing individual names - on their health compared to the population their age.
"We can look at visits to doctors, to hospitals, their medications," said McGavock