Diet, not physical exercise, plays important role in child obesity: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on January 18, 2021

Variation in consumption of market-acquired foods outside of the traditional diet, and not the total calories burned daily, significantly related to body fat, showed the study

According to a recent study, it is the change in diet, not the physical exercise, that plays a pivotal role in increasing body fat in children.

The study, carried out by researchers at Baylor University, stated that variation in consumption of market-acquired foods outside of the traditional diet, and not the total calories burned daily, is significantly related to body fat.

For the study, the researchers collected data of 43 rural and 34 peri-urban school children. The data was based on their diet and energy expenditure.

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The findings of the study suggested that peri-urban children (average 65 per cent) had more body fat than rural children, with more than a third of them classified as overweight compared to zero rural children.

The report said that peri-urban children eat more than four times as many market-acquired items as rural children.

Peri-urban children spend 108 calories per day less than rural children while at rest. This is related in part to 16-47 per cent lower levels of immune activity.

Notably, measures of market integration, immune activity and physical activity have no detectable impact on children's overall energy expenditure, with peri-urban and rural children spending roughly the same number of calories. Both cohorts demonstrated similar levels of physical activity.

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Variation in consumption of market foods, but not in daily energy expenditure, is related to children’s body fat, the study noted.

Lead author, Samuel Urlacher, assistant professor of anthropology at Baylor University, said: “Our findings are in line with a growing body of research pointing toward poor diet being the most important factor underlying the development of childhood obesity.”

The researchers said that exercise is absolutely essential for healthy living. But diet increasingly appears to be most directly related to long-term energy balance.

The findings were published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Published on January 18, 2021

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