Thursday, February 29, 2024

Changing diets, not less physical activity, may explain childhood obesity crisis

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Variation in consumption of market-acquired foods outside of a traditional diet — but not in total calories burned daily — is reliably related to indigenous Amazonian children’s body fat, according to a new study.
The study which was led by researchers at Baylor University offers insight into the global obesity epidemic.
“The importance of a poor diet versus low energy expenditure on the development of childhood obesity remains unclear,” said Samuel Urlacher, PhD, assistant professor of anthropology at Baylor University, CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar and lead author of the study.
“Using gold-standard measures of energy expenditure, we show that relatively lean, rural forager-horticulturalist children in the Amazon spend approximately the same total number of calories each day as their much fatter peri-urban counterparts and, notably, even the same number of calories each day as children living in the industrialized United States.
“Variation in things like habitual physical activity and immune activity have no detectable impact on children’s daily energy expenditure in our sample,” he said.
The study — “Childhood Daily Energy Expenditure Does Not Decrease with Market Integration and Is Not Related to Adiposity in Amazonia” — is published in The Journal of Nutrition, the American Society for Nutrition’s flagship journal, and was funded by the National Science Foundation.
“That initial result alone is exciting in confirming our prior finding of relative stability in children’s daily energy expenditure across different lifestyles and environments,” Urlacher said. “But our study goes further. It shows that Amazonian children who eat more high-calorie market foods — but not those who spend fewer calories every day — consistently have more body fat.
“Together, these findings support the view that change in diet is likely the dominant factor driving the global rise in childhood obesity, particularly in the context of rapid urbanization and market integration in low- and middle-income countries,” he said.
The global rate of overweight/obesity among school-age children and adolescents has risen from 4 per cent in 1975 to 18 per cent as of 2016, according to the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration.
That reflects a major global health crisis. Children who are overweight/obese often remain so into adulthood.
They have shorter life expectancy and a greater lifetime risk of developing noncommunicable diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
“While the most rapid rise in childhood overweight and obesity is now in rural areas and in low- and middle-income countries, few previous studies have actually measured, rather than simply estimated, children’s energy expenditure in these settings to identify the cause of energy imbalance,” Urlacher said. (ANI)

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