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Changing Parental Behavior May Help Obese Kids Lose Weight
Date:1/25/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- It's hard to help overweight children lose weight, and keeping it off over the long-term is even tougher. But obese children whose parents took classes on the importance of healthy eating and exercise lost weight and kept it off for the next two years, according to a new Australian study.

Researchers said the study shows that targeting parents -- rather than the children -- can help stave off weight gain in children aged 5 to 9.

"We believe it makes developmental sense to involve only parents," said lead study author Anthea Magarey, a senior research associate of nutrition and dietetics, at Flinders University School of Medicine in Adelaide, Australia, where the study took place. "It takes the stigma away from the child and supports a whole family approach."

The study findings were released online in advance of publication in the February issue of Pediatrics.

For young children, parents play a huge role in their eating and exercise habits, Magarey explained. The kids are still spending most of their time at home and eating most meals at home. Parents buy and prepare food, and decide what and how much kids can eat. They are responsible for providing opportunities for children to be active and can set rules for TV and video game use.

The researchers enrolled mostly mothers of 169 moderately obese or overweight children aged 5 to 9 years in a six-month "healthy lifestyle" course, in which parents were taught about portion size and reading nutrition labels, being a good role model for their children and setting limits. (Half of the parents also took a parenting course, although the study authors found little difference between the two groups).

At the end of six months, children's body mass index (a measurement that takes into account weight and height) dropped an average of 10 percent, as did their waist circumfe
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