Child Obesity Prevention Interventions Can Be Effective

Interventions do not result in unhealthy dieting, body image sensitivity

FRIDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity prevention interventions in children can be effective, according to a review published online Dec. 7 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Elizabeth Waters, M.P.H., D.Phil., from the University of Melbourne in Australia, and colleagues reviewed available literature to update a previous Cochrane review on childhood obesity prevention research. Studies that used a controlled design and evaluated interventions, policies, or programs in place for twelve weeks or more were included. Data on intervention implementation, cost, equity, and outcomes were extracted. Meta-analyses using available body mass index (BMI) or standardized BMI (zBMI) scores were performed, with subgroup analysis by age group.

The investigators identified 55 studies, the majority of which targeted children aged 6 to 12 years. A meta-analysis of 37 studies, including 27,946 children, confirmed that programs were effective at reducing adiposity, but individual interventions were not all effective, and the observed heterogeneity was high (I² = 82 percent). A standardized mean difference in adiposity of −0.15 kg/m² was seen overall for children in the intervention groups, with intervention effects of −0.26 kg/m² for 0- to 5-year-olds; −0.15 kg/m² for 6- to 12-year olds; and −0.09 kg/m² for 13- to 18-year-olds. There was unexplained heterogeneity seen in all age groups. Adverse effects were reported by only eight studies and there was no evidence of adverse outcomes like unhealthy dieting practices, increased prevalence of underweight, or body image sensitivities.

"We found strong evidence to support beneficial effects of child obesity prevention programs on BMI, particularly for programs targeted to children aged 6 to 12 years," the authors write.

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