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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UCLA: Study with Tulane Finds Improved WIC Food Packages Reduced Children’s Risk for Obesity

Sweeping changes designed to make the food more nutritious in a federal assistance program for low-income families reduced the risk for obesity for 4-year-olds who had been on the program since birth, according to new research.

The study of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, was conducted by researchers from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Tulane University and Los Angeles-based PHFE WIC, the nation’s largest local WIC agency and a program of Heluna Health.

WIC is a federal nutrition assistance program for pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, as well as infants and children under the age of 5 who live in low-income households.

In 2009, the program overhauled its food packages to make them more healthful by adding fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and reducing the amount of juice, milk and cheese. It also cut the fat levels allowed in milk and calibrated infant formula amounts to meet the caloric needs of young infants from birth to age 1.

Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the new research is among the first to use a rigorous research design to demonstrate the impact of those changes on the obesity risk and growth trajectories for different groups of children in the program. It is the most comprehensive study of the effect of these changes on obesity risk in Los Angeles County, where more than half of all children under age 5 are enrolled in WIC.

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By: Mr. Keith Brannon, Tulane University &  Mr. Enrique Rivero, UCLA