Weight Gain in Kids: Eating Too Much and Exercising Too Little

Taking the traditional wisdom head-on, scientists now report that eating too much – not exercising too little – may be at the heart of long-term weight gain in children.

Conventional wisdom indicates that an increasingly sedentary and germ-free lifestyle, leading to low energy expenditure that is daily, is a primary factor underlying rates in the US and elsewhere.

“Our study challenge that notion.

This similarity in energy expenditure implies that energy budgets can be flexibly balanced by the human body in contexts that are different. Samuel Urlacher, assistant professor of anthropology, Baylor University, Texas said in a newspaper published in Science Advances”Ultimately, eating too much, moving too little, may be in the core of long-term weight reduction and the international nutrition transition which often starts during childhood,” To investigate how children spend calories, Urlacher and his colleagues gathered data from 44 forager-horticulturalist Shuar children (ages 5 to 12) and compared them to those of industrialized children in the united states and the UK. The researchers used procedures that were respirometry and gold-standard isotope-tracking to measure energy expenditure. This information was coupled with information reflecting physical activity activity, nutritional status and growth.

The study found that Shuar children are roughly 25 per cent more physically active than children that were industrialized. Shuar children have approximately 20 percent greater resting energy expenditure compared to industrialized children, to a degree reflecting elevated immune system activity.

Despite wide differences in energy and lifestyle allocation, the number of calories that Shuar children spend is indistinguishable from that of industrialized children. “These findings advance previous work among adults, demonstrating that energy expenditure can be constrained during childhood,” said study co-author Herman Pontzer from Duke University.

A takeaway of this study is that change in energy intake that is increasing and diet, not decreasing infectious disease burden or activity, may underlie the weight gain.
However,”exercise remains critically important for health and for weight control given its effects on appetite, muscle mass, cardiopulmonary function and several other elements,” Urlacher said. “Our results do not suggest otherwise. Everyone should meet recommended daily physical activity levels”.

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