Science-- there's something for everyone

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Want to help kids lose weight? Treat their parents

Kerri Boutelle, Guy Cafri and Scott Crow from the University of California San Diego have a novel treatment plan for overweight and obese kids: treat their parents.

Children are suffering from obesity in record numbers. Unlike weight loss plans for adults, treatment plans for children must take into account their continued growth and brain development. Boutelle and his team decided to see whether putting parents in weight loss programs also affected their children.

To that end, the researchers divided 80 parent-child pairs, including an overweight or obese child aged 8 to 12, into two groups. For five months, participants were given advice on nutrition and exercise and monitored for caloric intake and activity. However, in one group, both the parent and the child participated, whereas in the second group, only the parents were involved.

At the end of the study, the children in both groups had lost the same amount of weight. Apparently, seeing their parents try to eat healthily and exercise convinced the kids to do the same. The parents in the study also lost weight equally in both groups, whether or not their kids were involved.

To me, this story is a win-win. If parents can be convinced to improve their lifestyles, the entire family benefits without ever having to resort to nagging or esteem-damaging tactics.