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Older Overweight Children Have Lesser Calorie Intake Than Their Healthy Peers

Update Date: Sep 10, 2012 08:58 AM EDT

A new study suggests that older children, who are overweight, may be consuming fewer calories when compared to peers who are of healthy weights.

According the study by researchers from University of North Carolina School of Medicine, there is an astonishing difference in the eating habits of overweight children between ages 9 and 17 years when compared to children below the age of 9.

The findings reveal that younger children who are overweight consume more calories than healthy children of their age group. However, in case of older children, it is not so. In older children, they have found, healthy ones consume more calories than the overweight ones.  

"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, despite changes in diet. 

"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."

For the study, the researchers examined dietary reports from 19,125 children between the ages of 1 and 17.

They categorized the children based on their weight, and children less than 2 years old were categorized on the basis of their weight-for-length percentile. The researchers then analyzed the co-relation between age and weight category on calorie intake, the report said.

The findings suggest that there is a need for different strategy to help children of both the age groups, maintain a healthy weight.

"It makes sense for early childhood interventions to focus specifically on caloric intake, while for those in later childhood or adolescence the focus should instead be on increasing physical activity, 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, adolescents."

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

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