Early intervention is key in battling obesity

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    Part of the behavior modification initiated by researchers involved an increase in physical activity. (Shutterstock photo)

    Early intervention is key when it comes to obesity intervention in young adults, suggests a study from Sweden. According to researchers, behavioral treatments geared toward controlling and treating obesity were found to be effective in young children, but had almost no impact on adolescents.

    “In the past 3 decades, rates of overweight and obesity among adults and children have substantially increased worldwide with all but the poorest countries now struggling with an obesity epidemic,” wrote Drs. Jennifer Woo Baidal and Elsie Taveras of Boston Children’s Hospital in the study editorial. “Substantial evidence suggests that the early childhood period is likely critical to the development of obesity.”

    Early intervention in cases of obesity

    For the research, the Swedish team evaluated more than 600 children at the National Childhood Obesity Center in Stockholm over a period of three years. Children were evaluated based on age, split into groups of six to nine years-of-age, 10 to 13 years-of-age, and 14 to 16 years-of-age. They were then further divided into groups based on obesity status.


    Young children responded more strongly to behavior modification than did adolescents. (Shutterstock photo)

    The subjects were then asked to participate in behavioral modification including: an increase in activity levels daily, avoidance of sugar-sweetened beverages, reduction of exposure to food advertising, promotion of a good sleep schedule and replacement of sugary and fried foods with produce.

    Researchers found, when administered behavioral treatments, the youngest, moderately obese children saw a 44 percent reduction in body mass index (BMI) score. Twenty percent of moderately obese children in the 10-13 year group saw a reduction in BMI, and only 8 percent of children in the oldest group saw a reduction. For severely obese study participants, only the youngest group showed a significant reduction of BMI through behavioral treatment techniques.

    Parental weight also played a role, as the data indicated among children classified as moderately obese, 54 percent of mothers and 53 percent of fathers were overweight or obese. Among the severely obese group, 64 percent of parents were overweight or obese; however, the only direct link between parents and children when it came to obesity was on the mother’s side.

    “The studies by Bocca et al and Danielsson et al provide evidence that intervening on obesity at an early age is effective and may have some sustained effects on weight and adiposity,” stated the editorial. “These interventions add to the paucity of studies in early childhood, a number of which have not been found to be effective.”

    While the results are promising, researchers indicate more studies are needed on methods of identifying children at-risk for obesity.

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