Intensive Lifestyle Interventions Help Children Lose Weight
Tried-and-true programs that teach children about diet and exercise are most effective for weight loss.
Intensive programs that teach children about exercise and healthy eating are most effective for weight loss, based on a recent study that compared various types of weight loss treatments for adolescents.
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this study looked at both the risks and benefits of weight loss treatments in children. It included data from 59 weight loss trials that tested healthy lifestyle interventions like heathy eating and physical activity, as well as potential weight loss medications. In total, these trials included more than 8,500 overweight and obese children between the ages of 2 and 18.
After analysis, researchers found that lifestyle interventions were consistently effective in helping children lose weight in 6–12 months. Lifestyle interventions were also associated with improvements in measures of depression and self-esteem and had no serious risks.
However, researchers note that interventions including at least 26 hours of contact were more effective than those with less intensive programming. Interventions that included 52 or more hours of programming were also significantly more effective in lowering children’s blood pressure.
Compared to lifestyle interventions, the risks and benefits of weight loss drugs were less clear. Only 11 of the studies included in the analysis tested weight loss medications, including metformin and orlistat. Among these studies, medication was associated with very little weight loss in children and did carry some risks, such as abdominal pain, cramps and vomiting. Researchers also note that weight loss medications did not appear to improve markers of heart health, such as blood pressure and blood sugar.
Based on findings, authors conclude that interventions promoting exercise and healthy eating are not only effective but extremely safe for children. Findings also support a minimum of 26 hours of weight loss programming to be most effective. However, the jury is still out on the use of weight loss medication in overweight and obese children, as there’s not enough reliable evidence to confirm the risks and benefits.
Questions for You to Consider
- What is a healthy weight for children?
- Body mass index (BMI) is used to determine whether a child falls into an underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese range. For children, BMI is calculated using height and weight, and takes into account both age and gender. Children with a BMI falling between the 5th and 85th percentile are considered a healthy weight.
What is the best way to lose weight?
Weight loss boils down to a simple formula: burn more energy each day than you take in from food. A deficit of 3500 calories will net one pound of fat loss. Therefore, if you cut down your food intake by just 100 calories a day, you can expect to lose 10 pounds by the end of the year.
Although it’s tempting to look for a quick fix with a speedy weight loss scheme, many popular diets are unhealthy or produce only temporary results. You’ll have better luck with an eating plan that includes a variety of healthful foods and gives you enough calories and nutrients to meet your body’s needs. Taking it slow by making ongoing eating and exercise changes is the best way to reach and maintain your optimal weight.