Physical activity, not diet, most influences preschoolers' weight

With the prevalence of overweight and obesity increasing at an alarming rate in the Western world, efforts have turned toward prevention strategies. In work published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Atkin and Davies studied a cohort of 77 preschool children ages 1.5-4.5 years, evaluating their daily diets and overall body composition.

Subjects for the study were recruited through the Feasibility Study for the National Diet and Nutrition Survey of Children in Great Britain and were evenly divided between boys and girls. Each mother or care giver was instructed and monitored by a fieldworker in keeping a weighed-food record for four days. Body composition was determined by isotopic measurement of total body water, which was in turn used to calculate body fat and fat-free mass. Physical activity levels were calculated according to doubly labeled water technique and basal metabolic rate which was predicted from body weight and height.

Subjects were grouped into three tertiles for total energy intake or percentage of energy from carbohydrate, fat, or protein. There were no significant correlations between percentage body fat and any of the intake variables, while percent of body fat was influenced by habitual levels of physical activity. The children's total energy expenditures (TEE) were 10-20% below their recommended energy intake. The authors stress the importance of physical activity for children as a preventative strategy in reducing the risk of obesity in adolescence and adulthood.


Contact: Beth M. Wettergreen
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Page: 1

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