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Parent-Only Programs Can Help Obese Kids Lose Weight: Study

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Treatments designed to tackle childhood obesity by enrolling just the parents in nutrition and exercise education programs are as effective as those that enlist both parents and children, new research suggests.

Such parent-only programs are also generally cheaper and more practical for families, researchers say.

"Our results showed that the parent-only group was not inferior in terms of child weight loss, parent weight loss and child physical activity," study author Kerri N. Boutelle, an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, said in a university news release.

"While further research is needed, our work suggests that parent-only groups are a viable method for providing childhood obesity treatment," she added.

Boutelle, also of Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, and her colleagues reported the findings in the Oct. 21 online edition of Obesity, in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal.

The findings stem from work with 80 families of overweight or obese children between the ages of 8 and 12. The families were divided into two different five-month treatment programs: one that involved both parent and child, and one that was parents-only.

"Parents are the most significant people in a child's environment, serving as the first and most important teachers. Since they play a significant role in any weight-loss program for children, we wondered if the same results could be achieved by working with just the parents, without the child coming to the clinic," noted Boutelle.

The answer seems to be 'yes,' the authors found. In terms of achieving child weight loss, the parent-only group was just as successful as the parent-child group, the researchers reported.

The team further noted that other types of child behavioral issues have also been successfully treated via parent-only groups, highlighting this approach as a viable intervention model that could be increasingly used to address a growing childhood obesity epidemic.

More information

For more on childhood obesity, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

-- Alan Mozes

SOURCE: University of California, San Diego Health Sciences, news release, Oct. 21, 2010

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