Calorie Count for Children Can Curb Obesity

Research suggests that African-American kids should cut 138 calories per day.

Posted: 04/17/2012 12:00 PM EDT
healthy eating, exercise, obesity, child obesity, high blood pressure, Health News, calorie count

With an estimated 12.5 million children fighting the battle of the bulge in the U.S., the burning question is: "What can we do about it?"

Researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health believe the key to curbing this epidemic is cutting a mere 64 extra calories from a child's diet per day. Granted, 64 calories may not seem like a lot, but even that small amount and increasing daily exercise can make a huge dent in obesity rates by 2020.


Researchers calculated in a study published April 10 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.


One report cited:


Without this simple daily calorie reduction, the authors predict that the average American youth would be nearly four pounds (1.8 kilos) heavier than a child or teen of the same age five years ago, and more than 20 percent of kids would be obese, up from 16.9 percent today, stated a press release. The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.


The researchers emphasize that 64 calories is an average, with some children needing to cut more, others less. Still, the study does illustrate how a few small measures could make a big impact on weight in the long term.


The study suggests some solutions to help children reach this goal:

—Replacing all sugar-sweetened beverages in school with water and not consuming any additional sugary beverages outside of school could reduce the energy gap by 12 calories per day.
—Participating in a comprehensive physical education program could eliminate 19 calories per day among children ages 9-11.
—Engaging in an after-school activity program for children in grades K-5 results in an additional 25 calories expended per day.

Researchers emphasize that depending on how much a child weighs and how prevalent obesity is among different communities, cutting only 64 calories may not be enough. The study suggests that white youth need to cut only 46 calories per day, but Black youth need to reduce 138 calories per day.

Why the huge difference?

Because African-American children and children from lower-incomes families bear the brunt of this obesity epidemic. According to the Office of Minority Health, in 2007-2008, African-American children were 30 percent more likely to be overweight than whites. Also, 17.4 percent of white children ages 6-17 are obese, but 22.4 percent of black children suffer that same plight.
Obesity affects more than physical appearance. More and more overweight and obese children are developing diseases that were once believed to be only for adults — Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

To learn more about childhood obesity and prevention go here.


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(Photo: Photodisc/GettyImages)

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