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March 2012

Obese Children May Have Difficulty Adhering to Low-Carb Diet

Obese children may have difficulty adhering to a low-carbohydrate diet, according to a new study.

A low carbohydrate diet is one in which daily consumption of carbohydrates is limited or reduced, and fats and protein are increased. There are several types of low carbohydrate diets, but the most widely used low carbohydrate diet is the one advocated by Dr. Robert Atkins. The Atkins diet proposes that, in order to lose weight, one should adopt an eating style that radically departs from the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) food pyramid. It proposes the elimination of most carbohydrates as a source of energy; in the place of carbohydrates, the diet advocates the significantly increased consumption of fats, including trans fats and hydrogenated oils.

Carbohydrates are the most common source of energy in the American diet. Bran, cereal, bread, potatoes and pasta all contain high amounts of carbohydrates. Eating carbohydrates result in the body's secretion of insulin. Insulin is a substance produced in the body to regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates.

In a new study, researchers randomly assigned 100 obese children 7-12 years-old to a low-carbohydrate diet, a reduced glycemic load diet or a standard portion controlled diet for three months. All children participated in weekly dietary counseling and biweekly exercise. Various outcome measures, including the child's ability to adhere to the diet, were evaluated before the study and after three, six and 12-months.

The researchers found that body mass index scores, percent body fat and waste circumference were significantly lower after three months for all diet groups. Results were maintained through the 12-month follow-up period. However, the authors noted adherence to the low-carbohydrate diet was significantly lower than the other diets.

The authors concluded that a low-carbohydrate diet may be effective; however, obese children may have more difficulty adhering to low-carbohydrate dietary guidelines than others.

In addition to low-carbohydrate diets, many other diets have been studied for their effects in obese children. There is evidence that a macrobiotic diet may lead to reduced body size and obesity and increased leanness in preschool children compared to children on a normal diet. However, studies are needed to determine whether or not these changes contribute to good health in children.

For information about integrative therapies for weight loss in children, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.

For more information about a low-carbohydrate diet, please visit Natural Standard's Health & Wellness Database.

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  1. Kirk S, Brehm B, Saelens BE, et al. Role of Carbohydrate Modification in Weight Management among Obese Children: A Randomized Clinical Trial. J Pediatr. 2012 Feb 28. View Abstract
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
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