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Downside of Diets in Children

A new study finds dieting is not the answer when it comes to children losing weight. The study finds dieting is not only ineffective at weight loss but may actually promote weight gain. //

Obesity is a serious public health problem for both children and adults in the United States. During the past two decades, the prevalence of overweight adolescents in the United States has increased by 100 percent. Dieting to lose weight is common among adolescent girls and is becoming more common among adolescent boys. A study led by researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School looked at whether dieting to control weight works among children and adolescents.

Researchers found in 1996, 25 percent of the girls and about 14 percent of the boys were infrequent dieters and about 5 percent of the girls and 2 percent of the boys were frequent dieters. The study found the number of girl dieters increased over the course of the study. The research also found binge eating was more common among the girls, but in both the boys and girls it was associated with dieting. Overall, the study reports during the three years of follow-up, the dieters gained more weight than the boys and girls who did not diet.

Study authors write, "Drastic changes in dietary intake are rarely sustainable; thus, it is not surprising that few people maintain weight losses. For children and adolescents who are overweight, diets carefully supervised by a clinician may be beneficial and appropriate; however, young people and adults who are not severely overweight need to be encouraged to adopt a modest and therefore sustainable weight control strategy that includes physical activity and does not require severe restriction of total calories.

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