A low energy diet combined with strength training seems the best way of tackling childhood obesity, shows research in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Such a program promotes much healthier cholesterol (blood fat) levels, one of the most sinister aspects of obesity, while still allowing children to gain height, more effectively than diet alone, the research shows.
Eighty two children aged between 8 and 11 were put on a low energy diet, providing a maximum of 1200 kilocalories a day for six weeks. Half of them also took part in a training program, designed to strengthen all the major muscle groups, plus treadmill and aerobic dance exercise for variety and interest. Each session lasted 75 minutes, including warm up and cool down.
Both groups grew significantly in height, but only the training group lost a greater percentage of body fat. The gain in lean body mass was more than twice that of the group on diet alone. This is important because it helps to push up metabolic rate by increasing oxygen consumption. While total cholesterol fell in both groups, it fell by 6 per cent in the training group, in whom the ratio of good to bad cholesterol also significantly improved.
The combined program achieved only moderate weight loss, but say the authors, it succeeded in preventing the children becoming more obese and developing related complications, such as diabetes and incipient heart disease.