You’re fat because you eat too much. Just stop eating all those calories and your “fat” problem will be sorted. This is the official party line, dished out by “the experts” looking in from the outside at both fat children and fat adults.
But many fat children (and fat adults too), will tell you.
“I really don’t eat THAT MUCH”.
To which the experts raise a condescending eyebrow and a patronizing reply,
I really don’t eat THAT MUCH
Researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, have confirmed, not all fat children are loading up on excessive calories.
In fact, the study discovered exactly the opposite. Older fat kids, defined as children over the age of 9, typically eat fewer calories, than their skinny peers.
Fat children counting calories
The research team came to this conclusion, having counted up the calories consumed by 19 125 children, between the ages of 1-17 years and then compairing their calories in, with their weight.
The data was collected as part of the 2001 to 2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In this study, a dietary report was completed for each child – the report was used to estimate the calorie intake each day.
These kinds of studies are never particularly accurate, because let’s be honest, it is often quite hard to remember what you ate for lunch. But since everyone is in the same boat, it does allow researchers to compare groups of people. In this case, they compared fat and thin kids. BMI was used to determine the weight status of all children over the age of 2. (A weight-for-length measurement was used for the under 2s, because BMI is not appropriate in this group).
Calorie counts for fat children not adding up
The expectation was that fat children would being eating more, since it is believed that too many calories in, leads to full fat cupboards.
The theory held true for little ones.
The weight of younger children obeyed this rule. The little ones that ate more calories per day, were heavier.
But the pattern did not hold much after the age of 9.
The fat kids ate less
Older overweight kids tended to not eat more than their skinny peers, in fact, they on average, actually ate fewer calories.
The cry, but I really don’t eat that much, is not a figment of the imagination. It is the truth.
The inconvenient truth ?
The finding does put a big dent in the spoke of the wheel…. of the obesity is caused by too many CALORIES IN and not enough CALORIES OUT.
And goes along way to explain, why cutting calories, seldom “fixes” the problem. In kids or adults.
The researchers speculate that the trouble for the older overweight child, is sitting on the other side of the calorie equation i.e. they just don’t move enough.
But other researchers have found, moving more won’t stop your kid from getting fat.
Obesity is really a lot more complicated than that, it reflects disrupted body chemistry, not simply poor calorie management.
Don’t let your little ones stuff their faces
The findings of this research suggests that the “trouble” begins early. And the TROUBLE extends beyond what is happening at the table.
The list of factors implicated in early childhood obesity include
- Exposure to obesogenic chemicals – Is obesity a consequence of living in a chemical world ?
- Lack of sleep – Early to bed is the secret to raising a skinny child
- Poor muscle development – Tots watching too much TV end up being muscle flops
- Lack of vitamin D – Chubby kids are habitually missing vitamin D
- Altered microflora – Your baby’s first “friends” shape their destiny new
So puppy fat is not something to be lightly dismissed or missed (many Mom’s seem to not notice). Puppy fat is the beginning of bad body chemistry, the kind of chemistry that can lead to a lifetime of weight struggles and a heap of health problems, which can start earlier than one would like.
Calorie management not enough to fix childhood obesity
Weight loss gurus proclaim the fix for excess weight is to manage calories, they tell you just eat fewer calories and/or burn more.
But this research suggests it really is not that simple.
Physiologically speaking, calories are not created equal, and obesity is more than just a problem of excess fuel, it is a problem with body chemistry.
Better body chemistry begins with better food choices, not just fewer CALORIES IN.Self-Reported Energy Intake by Age in Overweight and Healthy-Weight Children in NHANES, 2001–2008. Pediatrics (2012) 130(4):e936-e942. Asheley Cockrell Skinner, Michael J. Steiner, Eliana M. Perrin.
Interested in learning more about the chemistry behind those extra fat layers ?
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