A Fat Camp that Works

Weight-management program produces positive results

(RxWiki News) Children and adolescents who participated in a specific weight-management program were able to lose weight and maintain that healthier weight a year after the program ended, according to a recent study.

In general, obesity programs targeted at youth fail to keep kids healthy and motivated after the program ends. Therefore, the results of this new study are encouraging.

A team of researchers led by Mary Savoye of Yale University studied an ethnically diverse group of 209 obese children aged 8 to 16. Each child was placed in one of two weight-management programs: 1. an intensive family-based obesity program, or 2. a less in-depth program in which children received counseling every six months. The intensive program involved exercise, nutrition, and behavior modification. The intensive program also included bi-weekly intervention sessions for the first 6 months, bi-monthly intervention sessions for the second 6 months, and no interventions for the last 12 months.

Savoye and colleagues measured the body mass index (BMI) of children in both groups at 6 months, one year, and two years. The researchers observed an overall drop in the BMI of kids in the intensive program. In contrast, kids in the less intensive program showed an increase in BMI from the beginning of the study.

Although kids in the intensive program gained weight at the end of the two-year study, their BMI still dropped. The authors attribute the weight gain to growing up.

According to the authors, the success of the intensive program shows promise for a two reasons. First, most weight-management programs do not succeed in helping kids maintain their weight-loss after the program ends. Second, many of the study's participants were from low-income and minority backgrounds, two populations that disproportionately suffer from obesity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that nearly 20 percent of children and adolescents in the United States suffer from obesity. These obese youth are more like than their non-obese counterparts to remain obese as adults. This puts them at risk for a number of health complications including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and costs billions of dollars in lost productivity and extra healthcare costs.

The results of this study appear in the journal Pediatrics.

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Review Date: 
February 10, 2011