Migrant children are at increased risk of obesity, but a new study shows that a program teaching multiple lifestyle changes to predominantly migrant preschoolers and their parents helps the children reduce body fat and improve fitness.
Such interventions may be needed to help curb the global obesity epidemic, the study’s lead author Jardena Puder, MD, said. Puder, a senior resident at the University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland, said, “Even young children have high rates of obesity today.”
Statistics show that in the United States, about 14 percent of children ages 2 to 5 years are obese.
The public health program in this study attempted to reduce the risk of obesity among preschool children from areas of Switzerland with high migrant populations.
Specifically, it encouraged the children to increase their physical activity, improve nutrition, get more sleep and reduce audiovisual media use and stimulation, especially TV watching and video games.
Excessive exposure to stimulating media use can contribute to lack of physical activity, and insufficient sleep in early life may play a role in childhood obesity, according to the authors.Compared with the control group, the group of children who participated in the program had significantly improved overall and aerobic fitness, according to the abstract.
Additionally, the intervention group had greater reductions in total and percent of body fat, waist size and appropriate or moderate media use. They also improved more than the controls in “some aspects of nutritional behaviour,” Puder said.