Obesity and Weight Loss in Children and Adolescents: Is There a Viable Solution?

By Huber, Joseph H. | Palaestra, Summer 1995 | Go to article overview
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Obesity and Weight Loss in Children and Adolescents: Is There a Viable Solution?


Huber, Joseph H., Palaestra


The following quotation from a 1992 National Institute of Health Conference helps to define the issue of obesity and the problems associated with weight loss in the United States.

A health paradox exists in

modern America. On one hand,

many people who do not need to

lose weight are trying to. On the

other hand, most who do need to

lose weight are not succeeding.

The percentage of Americans

whose health is jeopardized by too much weight

is increasing.

The problem of obesity is becoming an increasingly prevalent nutritional disorder among children and adolescents. Data from four national surveys demonstrate a pronounced increase in the prevalence of pediatric obesity. Depending on the group studied, the prevalence of obesity and superobesity among children and adolescents has increased by between 17 and 306% over the last two decades (American Journal of Diseases of Children, May 1987).

Attempts at weight reduction are also very common among school age children and adolescents. David Wilson of the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business in 1990 that approximately 28% of boys and 61% of girls reported they had dieted to lose weight at some time within the previous year.

Current statistics related to pediatric obesity have gained the attention of the commercial diet industry in recent years. Specifically, promoters of diet programs now advertise weight loss programs tailored to needs of children and adolescents and assert that these programs are safe, easy, and nearly always effective. In addition, past medical literature has supported the premise that commercial weight-reduction programs may be beneficial for older children and teenagers (Pediatrics, December, 1981 and JAMA, April 28, 1993).

Federal Government Intervention

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been studying advertising practices of commercial diet companies related to patient safety and consumer protection (Consumer Reports, June, 1993). In December of 1993, the FTC gave final approval to consent agreements which settled charges that three commercial diet programs (Physicians' Weight Loss Centers of America, Diet Centers, and Nutri/System) made unsubstantiated weight loss maintenance claims. Cases against Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig are currently in litigation.

Unlike medicine, diet programs do not fall under the scrutiny of the Food and Drug Administration; this body considers weight loss programs essentially menu plans (U.

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