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Prev Chronic Dis. 2014 Jun 12;11:E101. doi: 10.5888/pcd11.130355.

Accelerated weight gain among children during summer versus school year and related racial/ethnic disparities: a systematic review.

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Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail:
Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.



The objective of this study was to compile and summarize research examining variations in weight gain among students during the summer in comparison to the school year, with a focus on racial/ethnic disparities and students who are at risk of overweight.


A systematic search of PubMed and Embase was conducted. Reference lists of identified articles and Google Scholar were also reviewed. Studies that assessed summer weight gain in school children were included. Inclusion criteria were: 1) a focus on children and adolescents aged 5 to 17 attending school; 2) a measured body composition before and after the summer vacation; 3) English-language articles; and 4) publication in a peer-reviewed journal since January 1, 1990. Data were extracted from selected studies in the following categories: study purpose, setting, study design, population, sample size, data collection method, and findings.


Seven eligible studies were included in the review. Six of the 7 studies reported accelerated summer weight gain for at least a portion of the study population, with an effect of summer on weight gain identified for the following subgroups: black, Hispanic, and overweight children and adolescents.


There may be a trend in increased rate of weight gain during summer school vacation, particularly for high-risk groups, including certain racial/ethnic populations and overweight children and adolescents. Potential solutions for the problem of accelerated summer weight gain include greater access to recreational facilities, physical activity programming, and summer food programs. Further research in this area is needed as summer weight gain may exacerbate existing health disparities.

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