April 5, 2007 / 7:34 PM / 12 years ago

Exercise and frequent eating may keep kids slim

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Kids who are frequent nibblers may pack on fewer pounds than those less frequent eaters, if they stay physically active, a study shows.

Dr. Labros S. Sidossis from the department of nutrition and dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens, and colleagues studied the relationship between eating patterns and body composition in 66 boys and 65 girls between 9 and 11 years of age.

According to the report in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, 24.5 percent of the children were overweight or obese, 67.2 percent had a normal body weight and 7.4 percent were underweight.

Sidossis and colleagues found that children who reported eating more often each day weighed less than children who reported eating fewer daily meals.

The frequent eaters had lower total fat and abdominal fat, despite taking in more calories than the non-frequent eaters.

How can this be? An assessment of the physical activity patterns of a subset of 48 children showed that frequent eaters were more physically active than were less frequent eaters.

Childhood obesity has skyrocketed over the past decades — so much so that obesity prevention is now a top public health priority, the researchers point out, since obesity can fuel the development of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, leading to cardiovascular disease in adulthood.

The results this study, Sidossis and colleagues note “could be added to the existing literature suggesting that elevated physical activity should be one the main targets for childhood obesity prevention programs.”

SOURCE: International Journal of Sports Medicine 2007.

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