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A Closer Look at a Weight-Loss Study for Children

UCSD is conducting a study about tackling childhood obesity by educating parents and children in tandem. Could this be the answer?

You can hardly make it through a TV program without some advertisement about an adult weight-loss program guaranteeing a slimmer body shape and a new look. How many TV commercials do you see about weight loss for children?

We know that childhood obesity is growing at an insurmountable rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years. Specifically, obese children between the ages of 6-11 went from 7 percent in 1980 to almost 20 percent in 2008.

I had to ask myself this question, “If there is a lot of help for adults, where is the help for the children?”

I was able to connect with Dr. Kerri Boutelle, associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at UC San Diego. Dr. Boutelle is an expert in childhood obesity and is currently working on a study that is examining an intervention for childhood obesity that is both cost-effective and behaviorally successful.

The study is called , which stands for family, responsibility,
education, support and health. Dr. Boutelle explains that it is important to
work with children and their parents because behavior is modeled. If there is healthy eating in the home, then the children are going to be positively affected.

The FRESH study will examine two groups. One treatment group will include one parent plus the child and the second treatment group will be parent-only. The study hypothesizes that it will be more cost-effective to have a parent-only intervention, but that the overweight child or children will be able to lose weight equal to those who are in the parent-plus child treatment group due to the education received by the parent involved in the study.

Along with parent involvement and education, it’s also important to develop the skills necessary to self-monitor your food intake and understand what types of food to eat. FRESH teaches its participants an easy to comprehend “traffic light” monitoring system.

  • Green light includes food that has 0-1 grams of fat/serving, <10 percent sugar.
  • Yellow light includes food that has 2-5 grams of fat/serving, 10-25 percent sugar.
  • Red light includes food that has >5 grams of fat/serving or >25 percent sugar.

Obviously, foods that fall into the “green light” category are the healthiest types of food to eat and foods in the “red light” category should be  consumed in much smaller quantities, with “yellow light” foods somewhere in the middle. By self-monitoring and keeping track of daily calories, the participants in this study will learn how to eat a balanced diet and seek out foods with less fat and fewer calories.

In addition, participants will learn about physical activity and work on changing sedentary habits.

Currently, the FRESH research group is looking for 150 subjects to take part in the study. The children need to be between the ages of 8 and 12 and must have one parent willing to participate. The study is free and on a volunteer basis so you can leave at any time. If you have a child who is overweight or obese, take action today.

For more information about participating in this study, please call 858-822-2158 and ask for the FRESH study or email kidsweight@ucsd.edu.

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