Attending a weekly class may help overweight kids and teens at risk for developing metabolic syndrome change their eating and exercise habits and improve their health, say researchers from Los Angeles, California.
Health risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome include being overweight and having high blood pressure and abnormal levels of fats in the blood. Metabolic syndrome is a problem because it puts a person at increased risk for heart disease, stroke and vascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.
Between June 2002 and August 2004, researchers enrolled 109 overweight 8- to 16-year-olds and their families in a 12-week program. Before and after the program, the children underwent testing to measure body mass index, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and levels of fats in the blood. Each week of the program, the kids exercised for 45 minutes, performing physical activities such as dodge ball, volleyball, jump rope, and running. While the children exercised, parents attended an education session about obesity and related health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. Finally, the children and parents both attended a 45-minute session about following the food pyramid, reducing fat and cholesterol intake, controlling portion size, and eating healthy both at and away from home.
Nearly half of the kids and teens dropped out of the lifestyle program before having attended a session, citing transportation problems, language barriers, and time constraints as the main reasons. But 43 who completed the program reaped several healthy benefits, including significant decreases in:
- body mass index (BMI)
- leptin levels (leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells in the body and affects food intake)
- blood pressure levels
- levels of fats in the blood
- blood sugar levels after meals
Although the kids didn't have major decreases in weight, they did grow significantly taller during the course of the study, which meant that they improved their BMI, a measure of weight for height.
What This Means to You. At the start of this study, half of the kids and teens had multiple risk factors for metabolic syndrome, but a 3-month program of exercise and nutrition education helped many of them reduce their risk for this condition and improve their BMI and heart health. If you are concerned about your child's weight or risk for metabolic syndrome, speak with your doctor about programs or other strategies for reducing your child's health risk factors.
Source: Roshanak Monzavi, MD; Daina Dreimane, MD; Mitchell E. Geffner, MD; Sharon Braun, MS, RD, CDE; Barry Conrad, MPH, RD, CDE; Mary Klier, RD; Francine R. Kaufman, MD; Pediatrics, June 2006.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: July 2006