Diet and exercise are not enough to fight childhood obesity

Relying on quick fixes like diet and exercise programs won’t stem the tide of childhood obesity, according to a new study that maps for the first time the complex processes that contribute to childhood obesity.

Diet and exercise not enough to fight childhood obesity (Shutterstock)
Diet and exercise not enough to fight childhood obesity (Shutterstock)

Co-authored by the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, the study found that children whose parents did not complete high school and who live in social disarray are more likely to be affected by overweight or obesity in mid-teens. High school completion is a strong indicator of socioeconomic status.

These factors were on ‘ramps’ that flow down to influence the body mass index (BMI) of the parents, thereby providing immediate lifestyle effects (diet, sedentary time) on the child’s risk of obesity.

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Professor Louise Bauer, a pediatrician at the University of Sydney, explained why the research shows why current public health policies have had limited success in preventing childhood obesity.

“We ignore the root causes of childhood obesity which include social disadvantage, and of course, it’s not something parents or children choose themselves,” said co-author Professor Baur of the university’s Charles Perkins Centre.

“While healthy eating and activity interventions are important, solutions are not solely the domain of health departments. If we are to change Australia’s current trajectory, we need to see many government departments working together to consider how structural changes can be made to reduce social inequality.”

Other interesting findings from the research include how different drivers of obesity play out at different stages of life, particularly the impact of leisure time activity after the age of eight.

There are also different influences on how free time is spent and influenced for boys and girls. For boys, more electronic gaming leads to less active free time. For girls, better sleep quality leads to longer sleep time and more active free time.

Obesity in children

Childhood obesity occurs when a child is overweight for their age and height. This can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, insulin resistance, psychological effects and premature death.

In Australia, 1 in 4 school-aged children and adolescents are overweight or obese, with 1 in 12 being obese. It is more common in those living in regional and remote areas, those from lower socio-economic areas, single-parent families and those with disabilities.

How was the study conducted?

The study, published today in BMC Medicine, is based on data from ‘Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children’, a nationally representative sample of more than 10,000 Australian children.

A team of leading scientists and clinicians spent nearly two years bringing together the fields of data science, biology, pediatrics and public health – using state-of-the-art statistical modeling (Bayesian network modeling) and informed analysis to unravel. On-ramp and complex web of causal factors, many of which interact.

Senior author Professor Sally Cripps, from the University of Technology Sydney, said the knowledge gained from the study is important for policy makers moving forward and could not be achieved without a diverse skill-set.

“This is a truly multidisciplinary piece of research. Data alone is not enough to uncover the complex set of interacting factors that lead to childhood obesity. But by combining the skills of mathematicians and computer scientists with obesity and nutrition experts, we have been able to make predictions and models that have never been clearly articulated before. was not—showing the complex interplay between multiple upstream, downstream and causal factors, and how these play out over time for children and families,” said Cripps, director of technology at the Human Technology Institute.

Lead author and statistician Wanchuang Zhu, from the University of Technology Sydney and an associate member of the Charles Perkins Centre, said: “To our knowledge, this is the first time that anyone has used advanced statistical network modeling to analyze the complex factors that lead to childhood obesity. It gives us a more complete picture. provides.”

Key findings

– Childhood obesity is largely a byproduct of socioeconomic status

– Parental high school grades (both paternal and maternal) act as an on-ramp to childhood obesity

– When children are 2 to 4 years old the causal pathway is: Socio-economic status/parental high school level -> parental BMI -> child BMI

– When children are 8 to 10 years old, an additional pathway emerged focusing on how children spend their free time: Parent High School Level / Socioeconomic Status -> Electronic Games -> Free Time Activity -> Child BMC

– The upstream effect on leisure activity was different in boys than in girls.

– A strong and independent link between parental BMI and childhood BMI suggests a biological link–high weight runs in families, and is due to shared genes.

The work is a collaboration between scientists and clinicians from the University of Sydney, the University of Technology Sydney and CSIRO – delivered by the Charles Perkins Centre, a research initiative committed to collaborative and multi-disciplinary research to tackle obesity, diabetes, heart disease and related conditions. .

“This study illustrates exactly why the Charles Perkins Center was founded, to bring together people with specialized skills from diverse academic and clinical backgrounds to find new ways of thinking about and solving the most complex challenges of our time,” said Professor Stephen Simpson. Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Center and Executive Director of Obesity Australia.

The authors express their sincere gratitude to the families who contributed their data and acknowledge the generous support of the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

This story is published from the Wire Agency feed without modification to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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