At that regular doctors appointment, it’s important that kids get screened for obesity and if they are diagnosed, an intense healthy lifestyle intervention can help. The new recommendations from The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), published in JAMA, emphasize the importance of weight management throughout life.
Approximately 17 percent of children and teenagers in the United States are obese, and almost a third are overweight. Kids with too much body fat stand a greater chance of growing into adults with overweight and obesity, and that means higher risk of many diseases, including cancers.
AICR research shows that overweight and obesity increases the risk of 11 cancers. Aside from not smoking, staying at a healthy weight is the single largest lifestyle factor to prevent cancer.
The new Task Force recommendations update the evidence from their 2010 findings, after reviewing the research on detecting and treating obesity among children ages 6 and older.
The way to screen for obesity is by assessing BMI, or body mass index, they say. Obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for a child’s age and sex.
To help those kids with obesity lose weight, evidence pointed to participating in a behavioral intervention for at least 26 hours. All of the behavioral interventions that were most effective included parents and delivered basic information about healthy eating and physical activity. The effective interventions also consisted of multiple components, such as sessions with the parents, tips on reading nutrition labels and goal setting, along with information on healthy eating and safe exercising.
There is not yet enough evidence to offer a recommendation on giving metformin or other medications for weight loss, the Task Force concluded.
The USPSTF is made up of an independent panel of national experts – their findings often form the basis of government guidelines.
In an editorial in the same issue of JAMA, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine point out the need for primary prevention programs and policies that help reverse the obesity epidemic.
Clinical approaches must be coupled with population-wide primary prevention strategies, they write. Policies that affect the way foods such as sugar-sweetened beverages are marketed to children and families have contributed to population-level obesity trends, and neighborhood walkability, healthy food availability, and safety influence obesity risk and also may contribute to disparities.
As the Task Force authors also note, there are many contributors to overweight and obesity and many strategies that can help. The CDC recommends 24 community strategies to prevent obesity, such as promoting breastfeeding, promoting access to affordable healthy food and beverages and fostering physical activity among children.
If you’re looking for a healthy weight program for the whole family – to do alongside another program or on its own – sign up for our 12-week New American Plate Challenge.