2 Your Health New clues to why some children are obese - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

2 Your Health New clues to why some children are obese

2 Your Health New clues to why some children are obese

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CHARLESTON, SC -

More than one-third of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese. Excess weight at an early age can lead to lifelong health problems such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Promoting weight loss in children, however, can be complicated. Because their bodies are growing, some weight gain is normal. Excess weight occurs when calories eaten are greater than the energy the body needs. However, growing evidence shows that the body's metabolism can change as you alter your diet or exercise habits. Keeping track of these metabolic changes can be difficult, especially during childhood growth.

A research team led by Dr. Kevin Hall of NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases used clinical data from 5- to 18-year-olds to create a model. To test its effectiveness, the team compared model predictions to actual changes in children who were measured in other clinical studies.

Using the model, the scientists were able to identify major differences between obese adults and children. For example, a child under age 10 requires more than twice as many calories as an adult to gain excess weight.

The model suggests that the adolescent growth spurts of obese boys might be harnessed to "outgrow" obesity. By successfully maintaining weight from ages 11 to 16, simulated boys lost their excess body fat. However, the effect wasn't as pronounced in simulated obese girls, suggesting that obese girls would likely need to lose weight to normalize their body fat during this period.

Looking forward, researchers are exploring options to develop a user-friendly online tool for health professionals and others. Parents should work with a health care provider before beginning any weight-loss program for an overweight or obese child.

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