Activity level is more important than caloric intake to prevent childhood obesity

March 19, 2013, San Francisco Chronicle

Research recently published in U.S. News and World Report suggests that caloric intake plays a less significant factor in obesity than activity levels.

The authors of the study hypothesize that the thinner children all participate in regular sessions of exercise, thereby increasing their energy expenditures. The overweight and obese subjects were more sedentary.

Originally published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers studied the dietary habits of approximately 13,000 children from the ages of 1 to 17 years between 2001 and 2008.

“We cannot stress the importance of healthy eating enough, certainly,” says Dr. Michael Omidi, co-founder of the charity The Children’s Obesity Fund. “However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the lack of physical exercise in children is the main culprit in the startling rise of childhood obesity, heart disease, diabetes and all other types of preventable medical conditions. We’ve seen studies of the Amish population, which suggest that kids and adults living in communities where high-calorie foods are regularly consumed but physical activity is a part of their daily rituals, do not have the same incidences of obesity and obesity related illnesses as the rest of the population.”

While obese children younger than age 9 tended to eat more calories than their slimmer counterparts, it was found that, as overweight children age – around the time they enter puberty – their bodies tended to want to hang on to the excess weight, causing them to remain obese despite caloric restrictions.

The study reported that between the ages of 3 to 5, overweight girls tended to consume an average of 1,720 calories per day, whereas normal-weight girls consumed an average of 1,580. Overweight boys in the same age range consumed an average of 1,810 calories per day while normal weight boys consumed 1,670. However, as the children aged into their pre-teen and teenage years, the dynamic shifted. Overweight girls between the ages of 12 and 14 consumed an average of 1,794 calories, while normal-weight girls consumed an average of 1,893. Overweight teen age boys consumed an average of 2,209 calories, while normal-weight teen age boys consumed an average of 2,291.

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