Older overweight children consume fewer calories than their healthy weight peers

September 10, 2012

A new study by University of North Carolina School of Medicine pediatrics researchers finds a surprising difference in the eating habits of overweight children between ages 9 and 17 years compared to those younger than 9.

Younger children who are overweight or obese consume more than their healthy weight peers. But among older the pattern is reversed: They actually consume fewer calories per day than their healthy weight peers.

How to explain such a seemingly counterintuitive finding?

"Children who are overweight tend to remain overweight," said Asheley Cockrell Skinner, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at UNC and lead author of the study published online Sept. 10, 2012 by the journal Pediatrics.

"So, for many children, obesity may begin by eating more in early childhood. Then as they get older, they continue to be obese without eating any more than their healthy weight peers," Skinner said. "One reason this makes sense is because we know overweight children are less active than healthy weight kids. Additionally, this is in line with other research that obesity is not a simple matter of overweight people eating more—the body is complex in how it reacts to amount of food eaten and amount of activity."

These results also suggest that different strategies may be needed to help children in both reach a healthy weight. "It makes sense for early childhood interventions to focus specifically on , while for those in later childhood or adolescence the focus should instead be on increasing , since overweight children tend to be less active," Skinner said. "Even though reducing calories would likely result in weight loss for children, it's not a matter of wanting them to eat more like healthy weight kids—they would actually have to eat much less than their peers, which can be a very difficult prospect for children and, especially, ."

These findings "have significant implications for interventions aimed at preventing and treating childhood obesity," Skinner said.

In the study, Skinner and co-authors Eliana Perrin, MD, MPH, and Michael Steiner, MD, examined dietary reports from 19,125 children ages 1-17 years old that were collected from 2001 to 2008 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). They categorized the weight status based on weight-for-length percentile in children less than 2 years old, or body mass index (BMI) percentile for children between 2 and 17, and performed statistical analyses to examine the interactions of age and weight category on calorie intake.

Explore further: Few parents recall being told by doctors that their child is overweight

Related Stories

Few parents recall being told by doctors that their child is overweight

December 5, 2011
A new analysis of national survey data finds that less than one-quarter of parents of overweight children recall ever being told by a doctor or other health care provider that their children were overweight.

School climate can affect overweight children for life

April 24, 2012
Kids can be really mean – especially to other kids – and school-yard bullying can have serious immediate and long-term effects. One area of increasing concern in this regard is the possibility that overweight or ...

Overweight or obese kids at almost three times greater risk of high blood pressure

October 3, 2011
Overweight or obese children are at three times greater risk for high blood pressure than children of normal weight, according to researchers from the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine.

Recommended for you

Study shows probiotics can prevent sepsis in infants

August 17, 2017
A research team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health has determined that a special mixture of good bacteria in the body reduced the incidence of sepsis in infants in India by 40 percent at ...

Children who sleep an hour less at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, says study

August 15, 2017
A study has found that children who slept on average one hour less a night had higher risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including higher levels of blood glucose and insulin resistance.

Low blood sugars in newborns linked to later difficulties

August 8, 2017
A newborn condition affecting one in six babies has been linked to impairment in some high-level brain functions that shows up by age 4.5 years.

Can breast milk feed a love of vegetables?

August 4, 2017
(HealthDay)—Want your preschooler to eat veggies without a fuss? Try eating veggies while you're breast-feeding.

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

po6ert
not rated yet Sep 16, 2012
the fact of being obese creates an increase in caloric use as a simple fact of pyshics. moving more weight costs more energy. have is group actually mesured the exerice of these individual. i doubt it. in any case basal metabolism is the princeple calorie
use of any individual

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.