Preschoolers key to obesity efforts

July 18, 2010

Although over-weight school-aged children and teens have been the target for government weight-loss programs, a new study presented at an obesity conference in Sweden by the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Obesity Prevention at Australia's Deakin University found community-based interventions by schools, parents and health-care institutions work best in kids under the age of five, reports the Wall Street Journal Health Blog.

Although over-weight school-aged children and teens have been the target for government weight-loss programs, a new study presented at an obesity conference in Sweden by the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Obesity Prevention at Australia's Deakin University found community-based interventions by schools, parents and health-care institutions work best in kids under the age of five, reports the Wall Street Journal Health Blog.

Targeting thousands of kids in different age groups for three years, the most successful results were for "Romp & Chomp," under five-year-olds, which successfully cut overweight and obesity stats by 3 percent. Primary schoolers reduced their weight by 2.2 pounds, but didn't change the prevalence of overweight and obesity. Most depressing, the program "had virtually no impact on weight gain," in adolescents, according to the study.

"There's sort of an inverse relationship between an intervention like this and the complexity of an individual's food environment," Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, told the Health Blog. Preschool kids are pretty much limited to the food given to them by adults, but as kids get older their ability to pick and purchase their own food increases -- plus they've seen a lot of commercials for less-than-healthful foods over the years. So if a teenager has the opportunity and money to purchase his choice of food before school, on breaks, after school and on weekends, the effects of a program sponsored by their high school or community group are likely going to be far less successful.

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