March 31 2011
New research published in this month's issue of the journal Pediatric strengthens the argument that the best way to reduce childhood obesity isn't through government programs or "healthy" school lunches but through greater parental involvement in a child's life - and more specifically a child's food decisions.
The Australian study examined 165 overweight children and randomly assigned them to one of three programs: an exercise program, a parent-controlled diet program, or a program combining both diet and exercise. After two years, all children experienced weight loss but the report noted that "the greatest effects were achieved through inclusion of a parent-centered diet program, indicating the importance of targeting parents within treatment and the possibility of targeting them exclusively in treating obese prepubertal children."
This latest research adds to the many other studies supporting the notion that parents are best suited to improving a child's health (I have written about this here and here). Ohio State University College of Public Health conducted a similar study last year and the results showed that the only way to reduce childhood obesity is if parents employ three rules: less television, dinner with mom and dad, and more sleep. Perhaps most interestingly, the study found that even for children predisposed to obesity (poor children and those with obese mothers), their likelihood of developing weight problems was reduced if their parents followed the three rules. Less television, family dinners, and early bedtimes are activities parents control ... for now.
And these studies are not all new. In 2000, a Harvard Medical school study of over 16,000 children found that "eating family dinner was associated with healthful dietary intake patterns, including more fruits and vegetables, less fried food and soda, less saturated and trans fat, lower glycemic load, more fiber and micronutrients from food, and no material differences in red meat or snack foods."
While Michelle Obama continues her crusade to strengthen the role of government institutions in feeding children, she may want to take a moment to read up on the latest research which proves her Let's Move campaign will do little to reduce obesity in America.
What will? Better parenting.