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Sleeping and TV Routines Can Reduce BMI in Minority Kids, Study Finds

Update Date: Sep 09, 2013 03:59 PM EDT
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With the childhood obesity epidemic becoming more and more widespread, government and health agencies have created many programs to help encourage a healthy lifestyle and curb obesity. Although the majority of people know that if they eat right and exercise daily, they can effectively lose weight or maintain a healthy one, getting people to actually comply to both techniques is extremely difficult. In a new study, researchers tackled the topic with the hopes of finding another way of helping children lose weight and avoid becoming obese. This study found that for minority children specifically, improving household routines, such as sleep duration and watching television, could help reduce body mass index (BMI).

"The purpose of this study was to assess the extent to which a home-based intervention, compared with a mailed control condition focused on healthful development, resulted in improvements in household routines that may be preventive of childhood overweight and obesity among racial/ethnic minority and low-income families with children aged two to five years," the authors explained according to a press release.

For this study, the researchers headed by Jess Haines, Ph.D., M.H.SC., from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada enlisted the help of 121 families. They focused on low-income minorities because this group has been identified as a high-risk group for obesity. The researchers randomly assigned the children-parent pairings to either an intervention group or the control group. The total number of pairings was 111 with 62 in the intervention group and 59 in the control group. All of the pairings went through the six-month follow-up.

The intervention group utilized home-based counseling and phone calls to help families reduce their risks of excess weight gain. The actual weight of the children was not directly addressed. The control group only got education materials. The researchers discovered that participants from the intervention group experienced a 0.75 hours/day increase in sleep duration. They also had a decrease of 1.06 hours/day spent watching television and a decrease of 0.40 in BMI. The researchers believe that better sleeping hours and fewer hours spent sitting in front of the TV helped children lose weight.

"In summary, after six months, we found that the Healthy Habits, Happy Homes intervention improved sleep duration and TV viewing behaviors, as well as decreased BMI among racially/ethnically diverse children from low-income households. Future studies with longer follow-up are needed to determine maintenance of these behavior changes," the authors wrote."

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics

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