July 21, 2024

Diet and Sedentary Behavior Impact Obesity in Obese Children, According to a Study

A study published in the International Journal of Obesity has examined the relationship between physical activity, sedentary behavior, diet quality, and changes in Fat Mass Index (FMI) over time in obese children. The findings highlight the importance of considering these factors in interventions to maintain a healthy weight status in childhood to adolescence.

Childhood obesity has been on the rise since the 1980s, despite efforts to promote healthier eating habits and increased physical activity. In the United States, 19.3% of children are obese, with an additional 16.1% overweight. While it is known that both diet and physical activity affect adiposity in children, interventions have mostly been generic.

The study, called the Transitions and Activity Changes in Kids (TRACK) study, followed a cohort of children from fifth grade in elementary school to middle school. The cohort consisted of 1,083 fifth-grade students from 21 elementary schools in South Carolina. Height and weight measurements were taken, and the children were given accelerometers to track their movement and complete surveys. The data collected allowed for accurate calculations of BMI annually.

Of the initial cohort, 658 children were included in the final analysis after excluding those with missing data. The participants were categorized into three groups based on their BMI percentiles at the fifth grade: 53% were normal weight, 18% were overweight, and 29% were obese. The sample had a diverse racial composition, with 33% black, 9% Hispanic, 18% of other or mixed races, and 40% white children.

The study found clear disparities among the weight groups. Children with normal weight engaged in more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and had lower FMI and height compared to their peers. Those in the obese category exhibited higher sedentary behavior and FMI. Overall, there was a decline in MVPA and diet quality from fifth to seventh grade, with obese children experiencing more significant weight gain compared to their normal-weight counterparts.

The growth curve analyses revealed significant relationships between physical activity, sedentary behavior, diet quality, and adiposity measured by FMI within each weight category from the fifth to seventh grade. MVPA was negatively correlated with FMI in all weight groups, indicating that higher levels of physical activity were associated with lower FMI over time. However, for initially obese children, a positive relationship was found between sedentary behavior and FMI, which diminished over time. Higher diet quality scores in the seventh grade were linked to healthier FMI levels.

The multivariate models explained 29.0%, 54.7%, and 35.8% of the variance in FMI for children with normal weight, overweight, and obesity, respectively, from the fifth through the seventh grade.

These findings emphasize the complex interaction between physical activity, sedentary lifestyle, and diet quality in children’s adiposity. Tailored interventions that address these factors are crucial for maintaining a healthy weight status from childhood to adolescence. Further research is needed to better understand how weight status influences the impact of these factors and to develop more effective interventions for childhood obesity.


1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it