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Three diets found effective for weight management in children

A study comparing 3 weight-loss diets for children with obesity found that all were effective, but some children adhere to certain programs better than others.

Researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center randomly assigned 102 children aged 7 to 12 years with obesity to a low-carbohydrate, reduced glycemic-load, or portion-controlled diet for 12 months. During the first 3 months, the children received weekly dietary counseling and group exercise sessions every other week. They continued their assigned diets on their own for the next 9 months. Their height, weight, body fat, and several other clinical measures, including cardiovascular risk factors, were taken at baseline and again after 3, 6, and 12 months. Of the 102 children enrolled, 85 completed the study.

Daily caloric intake decreased from baseline at all time points in all diet groups. Adherence to the low-carbohydrate diet, however, was consistently lower than to other diets, whereas adherence to the reduced glycemic-load diet was consistently high. After 3 months, children on each diet showed improvements in body mass index (BMI), percentage of body fat, and waist circumference. The reductions in BMI and percentage of body fat were maintained at 12 months; however, none of the groups maintained the reduction in waist circumference at 12 months. Improvements in some clinical measures were seen in all groups.

The researchers note that children in all 3 groups were successful in maintaining a reduced caloric intake, even in the final 9 months of the study when they did not receive guidance or counseling from the research staff. They add that an intensive initial intervention with any of these diets could lead to long-term successful weight management. Because adherence was best to the reduced glycemic-load diet, they suggest that this may be the most promising approach for children.

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