Lack of Sleep in Young Children Linked to Obesity-Promoting Diet; More Research Highlights from the European Congress on Obesity

According to research presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO),  held May 12 – 15 in Liverpool, UK, children “who don’t get enough sleep or who vary in their sleep pattern extensively are more likely to eat a poor, obesity-promoting diet.”

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Researchers looked at data on sleep duration in 676 healthy, Danish children in primary school over eight nights. Results showed that "for every hour less that the children slept they were eating a diet that contained 32 percent more energy from sugar sweetened beverages and 15 percent more energy from added sugar, and the overall diet had a 0.32 kJ/g higher energy density (relative difference of 4 percent). Shorter sleep was also associated with a 3 percent higher total energy intake even when adjusted for body weight and physical activity." In addition, "for every 30-min of variability in sleep duration the children consumed 18 percent more energy from sugar-sweetened-beverages. Finally, children whose parents recorded them having more disturbed sleep also were consuming more energy dense diets, with an increase in density of 0.16 kJ/g." The authors note that further results are expected to be published later in 2013.

A separate smaller study, also presented at the ECO, found that recording food consumption using a smartphone app can help users lose weight. The study looked at 12 overweight and obese patients over a four week period. Results showed a mean weight loss of -1.5 kg. In addition, half the participants lost 1 kg or more, four lost between 0 and 1 kg and the remaining two participants gained between 0.1 and 0.4 kg. The smartphone app consisted of three main parts in order to help promote food memory. Prior to eating/drinking a food or beverage, the users took a photo. Following the meal, the users accessed the app and answer a series of questions related to the meal. Before deciding their next meal, users accessed the "I've Been Eating" function in order to look at past meals.

“Our study introduces a new attentive eating approach aimed at reducing dietary intake and promoting weight loss, supported by theoretical models of the role of memory on energy intake regulation,” noted Eric Robinson, MD, University of Liverpool, UK, lead author of the study. “Results suggest that a simple smartphone based intervention based on these principles is feasible and could promote healthier dietary practices.” These findings are similar to other recent studies, including one published in the Archives of Internal Medicine  this past December, addressing the use of mobile apps to help with weight loss.

Other research presented at the Congress addressed the number of children (one in 17) in England classified as underweight; a comparison of physical activity levels in private school children vs. state school children (private school children were more active); and methods to help prevent obesity including a study that showed overweight and obese adults who eat a smaller breakfast tend to eat less food throughout the rest of the day.

Keywords: Child, Overweight, Weight Loss, Sweetening Agents, Body Weight, Motor Activity, Beverages, Energy Intake, Obesity, Breakfast, Models, Theoretical

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