Obesity prevention

Childhood obesity can be prevented – Cochrane updated evidence 2011!

Most effective interventions change social and physical environments and norms, not just individual behaviour.  Policies for healthy eating and physical activity in schools and early childcare settings, support for teachers to do health promotion, parent support and home activities that encourage children to be more active, eat more nutritious foods and spend less time in screen based activities.  Esp 6-12yrs but heterogeneous.

Fast food patronage is a frequent reality for many children and their parents. Although there are increasingly healthier alternatives for popular menu items (apple slices instead of French fries), they are infrequently selected.

Lifestyle factors cluster of course.  Boys’ adherence to a healthy lifestyle pattern (combining a nutrient‐dense diet and limited screen time) at 5 years was positively associated with prosocial behaviours (β = 0.14; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.01, 0.26) and inversely related to hyperactivity‐inattention symptoms (β = −0.12; 95% CI −0.23, −0.01) at 8 years. But in the EDEN cohort, there was no association with BMI, and for girls, a mixed lifestyle pattern (sugar or artificially sweetened beverages, high screen, physical activity and low sleep times) was still associated with prosocial behaviours (β = 0.12; 95% CI 0.01, 0.23). [DOI:10.1111/ppe.12926]

What would Batman eat? Priming

Study of 22 children presented with 12 photos of 6 admirable and 6 less admirable models incl Batmand and Superman.  Asked, ‘Would this person order apple fries or French fries?’ In the health prime condition, the same children were shown 12 photos of 6 healthy foods and 6 less healthy foods and asked to indicate if each food was healthy or unhealthy.


When children were asked what various admirable people – such as Batman or Spiderman – would eat, 45% then chose apple slices over French fries (cf 9% in control group).  Incidentally, knowing which foods were healthy or not made no sigificant difference to food choice.  [Wansink et al,  Pediatric Obesity, 7: 121–123. doi: 10.1111/j.2047-6310.2011.00003.x]

Weight talk in the home—parents talking to their children about their weight, shape or size— is associated with many negative health outcomes in children and adolescents, although the majority of research has been with adolescents.   Most psychological (e.g., emotional problems) and social (e.g., peer problems) outcomes differed significantly by race/ethnicity!

  • no significant associations between weight talk and biopsychosocial outcomes were found for Hmong and Latino children;
  • negative association (e.g., less healthy functioning) was found for African American and Somali children;
  • a positive association (e.g., healthier functioning) was found for Native American children. [DOI:10.1007/s10826-022-02351-9]