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Daily Dose: School-based Gardening Program Improved Metabolic Parameters in At-risk Youth

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Patient Care brings primary care clinicians a lot of medical news every day—it’s easy to miss an important study. The Daily Dose provides a concise summary of one of the website's leading stories you may not have seen.


On January 12, 2023, we reported on a study published in JAMA Network Open that evaluated the effects of the Texas Sprouts school-based gardening, nutrition, and cooking intervention compared with a control program on changes in metabolic outcomes in 695 children aged 7-12 years.

The study

From 2016 to 2019, investigators analyzed 16 low-income elementary schools in the greater Austin, Texas area with majority Hispanic student populations. The schools were randomly assigned to either Texas Sprouts intervention or delayed intervention (ie, control). At baseline and postintervention, participants’ demographics were obtained via survey and investigators measured students’ height, weight, and body mass index, as well as, glucose, insulin, homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) and obtained a lipid panel via an optional fasting blood draw.

Researchers observed that compared with children from control schools, those from Texas Sprouts schools had a 0.02% reduction in mean HbA1c (95% CI, 0.03%-0.14%; P=.005) and a 6.40 mg/dL reduction in mean low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (95% CI, 3.82-8.97 mg/dL; P=.048). There were no intervention effects on glucose, insulin, HOMA-IR, or other lipid parameters.

Clinical implications

"Given that there is a critical need to reduce obesity-related metabolic disease in children, especially in low-income and Hispanic populations, this intervention has the potential to be implemented and scaled across the US. School-based gardening programs improve dietary intake, academic performance, and reduce metabolic diseases in even the most high-risk minority pediatric populations. These findings provide direct evidence to help encourage policy makers, administrators, and school district personnel to adopt and/or support garden-based learning into elementary schools.”

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