Cut Childhood Obesity with 64 Calorie Cuts (On Average)

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Drinking half a soda instead of the full can, eating six fewer French Fries, or playing basketball for about ten minutes are a few ways youths – on average – can cut the 64 daily calories a new study suggests is needed to reach the federal governments target goal for reducing childhood obesity by 2020.

The 64-calorie estimate is an average across the US population – with some kids needing to cut more calories and others fewer. It is not intended to stand in as a figure for any child, note the study authors.

The study was published online today in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past three decades. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults. And obese adults are at increased risk of seven types of cancer, along with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health disorders.

The authors in this study used the US government report “Healthy People 2020” as their  goal. The report set a target to decrease childhood obesity to 14.6 percent by 2020, a 10 percent decrease from 2010.

In order to reach that goal, the authors first estimated the rate of childhood obesity in 2020. Using government nutrition surveys from 1971 to 2008, they estimated approximately 21 percent of youths’ ages 2-19 would be obese.

Then they predicted how much children and teens would weigh – on average, again – in 2020 and compared it to their current average weight. In 2020, they estimated all children and teens combined would be on average about 4 pounds heavier. In order to reach the 14.6 percent target, they calculated the daily difference needed between the calories eaten and burned through normal growth and activity.

For ages 2-19, this energy gap came out to 64 calories a day. The gap varied widely among age brackets and ethnicities. Teenagers, for example, would need to cut and/or burn on average 98 calories per day to reach the 2020 government target. Black teenagers would need to eliminate 230 calories a day. For kids ages 6-11 its 77 calories on average a day.

It could take both more physical activity and healthier eating, say the authors. They suggest several ways to lower kids’ total calories, including policies that have schools increase activity and replace sugar-sweetened beverages with water.

Source: Reaching the Healthy People Goals for Reducing Childhood Obesity: Closing the Energy Gap
May 2012, Vol. 42, No. 5


    Author: Mya Nelson

    Mya R. Nelson is at American Institute for Cancer Research, where she writes about the research in the field.

    One thought on “Cut Childhood Obesity with 64 Calorie Cuts (On Average)”

    1. Studies show that dieting, even that considered “naturalistic”, among young people lead to weight cycling [Naturalistic weight reduction efforts predicted weight gain and onset of obesity in adolescent girls;

      There is an evidence-based compassionate alternative to conventional dieting: Health At Every Size®. Please consider this alternative prior to making a decision that may result in weight cycling.

      For more information on Health At Every Size, you can find a general explanation on Wikipedia ( or find in-depth research-based information in the book Health At Every Size – The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Dr. Linda Bacon (

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