USC researchers find nutrition and exercise program can help kids lose weight

June 24, 2001

PHILADELPHIA, June 23--A family-centered activity and nutrition program for children organized at a Los Angeles pediatric diabetes center successfully got children to exercise, eat healthier and recognize habits that lead to gaining weight, according to a study presented today at the American Diabetes Association's 61st Annual Scientific Sessions.

The Kids N Fitness program appears to be a valuable model for changing behavior and battling the bulge in children, say endocrine specialists at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

"The children come to the sessions eager to participate and leave more fit and knowledgeable, without having gained weight," says Marsha D. MacKenzie, R.D., C.D.E., head of the Endocrine and Obesity Nutrition Program at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

Promoting healthy eating and good exercise habits during childhood has become critical to the nation's health as increasing numbers of children and teen-agers today move into the ranks of the overweight and obese. The percentage of young people who are overweight has almost doubled in the past 20 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity puts people at risk for type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis. Diabetes specialists at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles created the Kids N Fitness program at the hospital's diabetes center. The program consisted of eight 90-minute sessions focusing on eating and exercise behavior.

Activities included building food pyramids, supermarket shopping, low-calorie eating for a day and activities that helped children identify their habits that may lead to weight gain. Children also participated in aerobics, volleyball, soccer and calisthenics, and parents were involved in sessions to support children's efforts.

After the program, children gained significantly less weight per month, increased their fruit and vegetable consumption and exercised more. Researchers are optimistic that the program will help children make changes that will benefit their own health. The program is effective in helping obese children maintain weight, learn ways to regulate appetite, exercise with similar children in a non-threatening atmosphere, and get feedback and eating and exercise behaviors that may often lead to weight gain, they say.
Marsha D. MacKenzie, Mary J. Halvorson, Francine R. Kaufman, Sharon Braun, Barry P. Conrad, "Effect of a Kids N Fitness Weight Management Program on Obesity and Other Pediatric Health Factors" American Diabetes Association 61st Scientific Sessions, June 22-26, 2001. Oral Presentation 88-OR.

University of Southern California

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