Overweight and obese children who were taught to read food labels and how to choose healthy options were able to lose weight during a two-year study. The children also had improved cholesterol levels.
The government-funded study was conducted by researchers from the United States Department of Agriculture ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. The program included classes in nutrition and exercise and guidance for how the children could apply what they learned in the classroom to help them lose weight and to achieve overall health benefits.
All the children in the study were overweight or obese Mexican-Americans between the ages of 10 and 14. According to the American Heart Association, among American children ages 2 to 19, the percentage of Mexican-American children who are overweight or obese is 40.8 percent of males and 35.0 percent of females. Children who are overweight or obese tend to remain that way into adulthood and are at risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other serious conditions. Helping them to lose weight at an early age may ward off or lessen such complications.
Researchers compared two groups of children: 40 in the treatment group and 20controls. The children in the control group received a self-help book and no other intervention during the entire study. For the first 12 weeks of the program, the 40 children attended at least one nutrition class per week, during which they were taught how to read food labels and to keep track of the foods they ate. They also attended at least three physical activity sessions per week. During the next 12 weeks, the treated children learned how to apply what they had learned to their daily lives and how it could help them lose weight.
Compared with the control group, the children in the treatment group showed greater improvements in body composition and total cholesterol and were able to lose weight. Students in the intervention program continued to show improvement in their body mass index after year one and two. The researchers want to follow-up with the children to see if these results are maintained after five to ten years. They also want to determine which part of the program was more effective in helping children to lose weight.
American Heart Association
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