Child obesity rises in the holidays: study

Overweight Brother and Sister on a Sofa Eating Takeaway Food and Watching the TV
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Childhood obesity rates increase during the holidays, according to new research.

We all know over indulgence during the festive season leads to weight gain among adults.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a US study published in journal Obesity has found this time of year can be a major risk factor for weight gain among children too.

Associate Professor Paul von Hippel from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas in Austin says schools have never been a big part of the childhood obesity problem.

“I wish I could say that changes schools have made over the last decade are helping to reduce obesity, but they’re not,” von Hippel said.

“Kids are gaining BMI at healthy rates during the school year, and then becoming overweight when school lets out. We can’t make a dent in this problem if we continue to focus on school food and physical education programs that affect children only when they’re at school.”

Researchers at the LBJ School examined body mass index (BMI) and obesity prevalence in a nationally representative sample of more than 18,000 children from the start of kindergarten in 2010 through the end of second grade in 2013.

During that time, all of the increases in overweight and obesity prevalence occurred during the two US summer holidays, not during the three school years.

This study is the second nationally representative analysis of seasonal BMI gain. The first, published in 2007 in the American Journal of Public Health, found that children gained weight faster during summer holidays than during the kindergarten and first-grade school years.

Australian dietitian Melanie McGrice from Nutrition Plus, a charity that helps improve the diets of Indigenous children, says parents must be extra mindful about the number of treats they allow their kids to consume during the school holidays.

“If we are going to be eating more treat foods then we need to compensate at other times when we usually eat treat foods. If you are going to a school Christmas party then maybe you don’t have the Friday night takeaway that you usually have to compensate.”

Staying active and maintaining regular meal times is also important to avoid overeating, advises Ms McGrice.

“Try to create some healthy strategies as a family, like not keeping sweet drinks in the house, only snacking on fruit or two hours of outdoor play everyday.”

“There is certainly nothing wrong with having some treat foods occasionally but the problem is that occasionally can become everyday rather than a sometimes food,” said McGrice.

© AAP 2016

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