Quick Results Possible for Obese Kids

Obese children saw quick results in study with exercise and diet program

(RxWiki News) Weight loss can be a long journey. However, in a new study of obese children, the researchers found that changes to diet and exercise showed fairly quick results.

The study followed Chinese children as they went through a six-week program with low calorie diets and plenty of moderate aerobic exercise.

Researchers found that the children in the program lost a significant amount of weight, had decreased body fat percentages, and saw a drop in blood pressure.

"Talk to your doctor about starting a new exercise program."

The study, led by Beibei Luo, of the Key Laboratory of Exercise at the Shanghai University of Sport in Shanghai, China, followed 167 obese children between the ages of 11 and 13 years old for 6 weeks. The children were recruited from the Shanghai Student Physical Fitness Monitoring Program and the Weight Loss Camp in the Shanghai University of Sport.

Participants were all pre-pubescent (as determined by pediatricians) and had body mass indexes (BMIs) that categorized them as obese for their age. BMI is used to measure body fat based on a ratio of weight to height. The children also had a waist circumference above the 90th percentile of children their age in Shanghai.

The participants were randomly divided into either a diet and exercise group (95 children) or a control group (72 children). The diet and exercise group ate between 1,600 to 2,000 calories a day and did three-hour sessions of aerobic exercise twice a day for 6 weeks.

The meals were balanced into 30 percent protein, 50 percent carbohydrate and 20 percent fat. Breakfast accounted for 35 percent of the day's total calories, lunch accounted for 40 percent, and dinner accounted for 25 percent.

"The diet included important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, fiber, and polyunsaturated fatty acids at adequate levels," wrote Luo and colleagues.

The exercise consisted of a 30-minute warm-up, 2 hours of moderate aerobic exercise (with a heart rate falling between 120 to 150 beats a minute), and 30 minutes of relaxation. This included activities like brisk walking, jogging, swimming, table tennis, and badminton.

"The emphasis of the exercise program was on enjoyment and safety, not competition or skill development," noted the study authors.

Measurements like body weight, waist circumference, body fat percentage, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI) were taken from the children at the study's start and compared to results at the study's end. 

Participants were also examined for other markers of metabolic syndrome (MetS) like high blood pressure and high blood sugar. MetS is a group of risk factors associated with an increased risk for conditions like heart disease and diabetes later in life. 

After analyzing the results, Luo and colleagues found that the diet and exercise group had significant drops for every outcome measured, except for blood sugar in boys.

On average, the girls in the diet and exercise group lost 6.70 kilograms (kg), or about 14.7 pounds, while the girls in the control group gained an average of 2.85 kg (6.3 pounds). The boys in the diet and exercise group lost an average of 8.60 kg (18.9 pounds), while the boys in the control group gained an average of 3.80 kg (8.4 pounds). 

The BMIs for the diet and exercise group dropped an average of 2.86 points for the girls, and 3.51 points for the boys. In comparison, the BMIs for the control group increased by an average of 1.05 for the girls and 1.34 for the girls. 

Waist circumference and body fat percentage also dropped significantly for the diet and exercise group. The waist circumferences of this group dropped an average of 12.31 centimeters (cm) for the girls and 13.92 for the boys, and body fat percentage dropped an average of 5.83 percent for the girls and 6.92 percent for the boys.  

Measures for blood pressure also dropped significantly for the children in the diet and exercise group.

Luo and colleagues reported that before the study began, 10 children in the exercise and diet group were diagnosed as MetS patients. After the 6-week program, zero in this group were diagnosed as having MetS.

The study authors noted that the 6-week program was fairly short and the study did not have a long follow-up period to see if the positive changes lasted. Further research is needed to confirm these findings and explore the effects in the long-term.

According to Rusty Gregory, a certified wellness coach and dailyRx Contributing Expert, "Restricting intake of blood-sugar-raising foods and engaging in an exercise program will lead to all of the health benefits demonstrated in this study.

"A diet low in sugar will provide satiety which is necessary due to an increase in appetite that often times accompanies exercise," he said. 

This study was published in the December issue of Journal of Sport and Health Science. No conflicts of interest were reported. 

Review Date: 
December 15, 2013