The prevalence of childhood obesity is at a 30 year high. In addition to the childhood obesity epidemic the associated health and economic consequences that accompany it must also be considered. The newly designed mathematical model was developed by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help assist doctors and policy makers evaluate the likely outcome of weight management interventions, ranging from clinical management to sweeping policy changes that can affect the population en masse. The paper is published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology edition,and was released Tuesday as an early online publication.
“Obese children are much more likely to become obese adults, which makes achieving or maintaining a healthy weight early in life vitally important,” said NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D. “This study suggests that we may need to approach weight management and obesity prevention differently in youth than in adults.”
The statistics are staggering, more than 30 percent of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese. Being overweight as a child can lead to lifelong health problems such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Recent research also suggests that the amount of time that a child spends being obese also increases the heart disease risk exponentially.
Unlike the model created for adults in 2011, the children’s model incorporates adjustments for the child’s unique physiology and the composition changes the body undergoes as it grows to maturity. Creating an accurate model for children was complicated because the weight gain associated with healthy growth presents a moving target in terms of the definition of excess weight and obesity. Despite this, researchers found, that when compared with healthily growing children, “the obese children had more than double the fat mass and their energy expenditure was roughly 300 kcal higher per day.” The model also found that children often need substantially higher calorie intake to generate the same degree of excess weight compared with older and more sedentary adults.
“Creating an accurate model of energy balance in children was challenging, because they are still growing,” said Kevin Hall, Ph.D., a researcher at the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and one of the authors of the paper. “Our model, which takes growth into consideration, helps quantify realistic goals for weight management in children and adolescents.”
Recommendations for managing weight should consider health status and age, concerned parents should work with a health professional before beginning any weight-loss regimen for their overweight or obese child.