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Physical activity More Than Diet Determines Weight in Children: Study

Update Date: Nov 23, 2012 05:27 AM EST

A new study suggests that it is the physical activity, rather than the diet, which makes a huge difference in determining the weight of children. The study results are an analysis of the new data from the Lifestyle of our Kids (LOOK) longitudinal study.

According to lead researcher professor Richard Telford from the ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment and the Clinical Trials Unit at The Canberra Hospital, the new study provides one of the strongest evidences so far in the debate on how to tackle childhood obesity.

"Our four-year study of 734 otherwise healthy Australian children in the general community, aged between 8 and 12 years, found that the main difference between lean and overweight children was that lean children were more physically active," Telford said.

"Children with a higher proportion of body fat, even those considered obese, did not consume more kilojoules - they did not eat more fat, carbohydrate or sugar - than those who were lean. Indeed, our study found that leaner boys actually consumed more kilojoules over the four years of the study than overweight boys, but were much more physically active. The data also indicated that if a child became more active during the four years he or she became leaner. Alternatively, a child who became less active increased his or her body fat percent," he added.

For the study, researchers measured the physical activity of the children with the help of pedometers and accelerometers, and body fat with dual emission X-ray absorptiometry. The dietary intake was also kept a track of by nutritionists.

In addition, the researchers interviewed children and parents with questions pertaining to their food intake, and they were also asked to keep a written record of their daily intake, with careful measurement of the quantities. This gave more reason for the researchers to be confident about their study.

The findings of the study suggest that the way children's weight issues are tackled need to be revisited, Telford explained.

"General community strategies involving dietary intake and physical activity to combat childhood obesity may benefit by making physical activity the foremost focus of attention," he said.

LOOK researchers conducted this aspect of the study between 2005 and 2010. The results have been published in PLoS ONE.

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