Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Let’s Sleep: Preventing Obesity in Children

Yesterday first lady Michelle Obama introduced the new “Let’s Move” campaign. She is taking on the issue of childhood obesity.

The campaign is backed by a presidential memorandum
signed by President Obama. It establishes a task force on childhood obesity.

One key component of the Let’s Move campaign is to help parents make healthy choices. How can parents help their children maintain a healthy weight?

A new study suggests that one way it to make sure that children get enough sleep. This is one of three household routines that may help prevent obesity in children.

study involved 8,550 children who were born in the U.S. in 2001. They were a part of the birth cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. Data were collected in 2005 when the children were 4 years old.

Obesity was determined by their
height and weight measurements. The study also examined their exposure to three household routines:
  • Eating the evening meal as a family more than five nights per week
  • Sleeping for at least 10.5 hours per night on weekdays
  • Watching no more than two hours of TV or videos per day on weekdays

Results show that 18 percent of children were obese. About 58 percent of parents reported that their child slept at least 10.5 hours per night.

The rate of obesity was 36 percent to 37 percent lower in children exposed to any two or all three of the routines. Exposure to only one routine reduced the odds of obesity by 16 percent.

“The routines were protective even among groups that typically have a high risk for obesity,” lead author
Sarah Anderson said in a news release. “This is important because it suggests that there’s a potential for these routines to be useful targets for obesity prevention in all children.”

So which of the three routines was most important? Anderson said that each of the three routines appeared to be helpful.

“What this suggests is that you can’t point to any one of these routines,” she said. “Each one appears to be associated with a lower risk of obesity, and having more of these routines appears to lower the risk further.”

In October the Sleep Education Blog
reported on sleep duration and obesity in children. A recent study found that children who slept less than eight hours on weekdays were more than two times more likely to be overweight or obese.

Read more about sleep and obesity and sleep and children.

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