Homeschooled Kids Are Thinner, Eat Better, Researchers Surprised to Find

Children who are homeschooled have less body fat than children who attend schools outside the home, according to a new study published in the journal Obesity.

"Based on previous research, we went into this study thinking homeschooled children would be heavier and less active than kids attending traditional schools. We found the opposite," Dr. Michelle Cardel, University of Colorado-Denver, one of the study's 11 authors, told University of Colorado-Denver.

The researchers compared homeschooled children, ages 7 to 12, to children in the same age group who attend schools outside the home. They found that the homeschooled children had about the same level of activity as those not homeschooled, and had about the same quantity and quality of meals while at home.

The biggest difference, though, was what the kids who attended schools outside the home ate while at school. Those kids consumed significantly more calories, sodium, trans-fat and sugar, and consumed less fiber, fruit and vegetables, than the homeschooled kids.

The study, "Home-schooled children are thinner, leaner, and report better diets relative to traditionally schooled children," found that homeschooled children have significantly lower body mass index, fat mass, trunk fat and percent body fat. Plus, they consumed, on average, 120 total kilocalories less per day than children schooled outside the home.

Cardel added that the study did not distinguish between the kids who ate school lunches and the kids who brought their own lunch to school, and speculated that the results may have been different if they had.

"We think these differences may reflect the uniqueness of the home environment in homeschool families but future research is needed to know for sure," she said.

The other researchers for the study were doctors Amanda Willig, Krista Casazza, Andrea Cherrington, David B. Allison and José R. Fernández at University of Alabama at Birmingham, Dr. Akilah Dulin-Keita at Brown University, and doctors Thrudur Gunnarsdottir, Susan L. Johnson, John C. Peters, and James O. Hill at UC-Denver.