Do You Know the Two Ages Your Child is Most at Risk of Becoming Obese?

Puberty leads to decreased metabolism.

The assumption is that kids always have a high metabolic rate and can eat as much as they normally want without gaining weight. However, a new study shows that this is not always correct and points out the two ages your child is most at risk of becoming obese.

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According to a news release from Exeter University, there is an acceleration in weight gain and obesity rates among young teens that is at odds with the typical view that during puberty—when growth spurts occur―teens should have their highest metabolism and therefore burn more calories. As it turns out, teens actually experience a drop in their metabolism during puberty and are especially at risk of gaining weight.

This news comes in light of data gathered over a 12-year period involving nearly 350 school children in an “Earlybird” study based in the UK. During the 12-year study, the children were assessed every six months between the ages of five and 16, from which blood samples were given to assess metabolic health and measurements of size, body composition, metabolic rate and physical activity taken.

Of the nearly 350 children followed, 279 provided data in a new study that determined their individual metabolic rates by measuring the amount of oxygen each consumed while at rest within a sealed canopy. This has been found to be a reliable method as earlier studies have shown that burning calories uses up a fixed amount of oxygen.

According to the news release, “We spend calories in two ways―voluntary spend through physical activity, and the much larger involuntary spend, simply to stay alive. Thinking, keeping blood warm, and keeping the heart, liver and kidneys working together use up to 1,600 calories per day in adolescence.

What the researchers found was that the children actually experienced a sudden drop in calorie expenditure from their involuntary spend during puberty, during the age of 10 onwards. This was an unexpected finding as resting metabolism rises with an increase in body size as a child grows and burns more calories—a fact backed up from findings from the age of five and onwards. However, something else is going on with the body once puberty arrives.

“When we looked for an explanation for the rising obesity in adolescence, we were surprised to find a dramatic and unexpected drop in the number of calories burned while at rest during puberty. We can only speculate as to why, but it could be a result of an evolutionary trait to save calories for growth that may now contribute to a dangerous rise in adolescent obesity in cultures where food is in abundance. It could be that we have evolved to preserve calories to ensure we have enough to support changes in the body during puberty, but now we they have sufficient calories each day, the drop in spend means excess weight gain,” stated Professor Terry Wilken of the University of Exeter Medical School.

So how much less are they burning calories? About the same amount that is found in a McDonalds Big Mac containing approximately 508 calories.

Another factor pointed out by the news release from Exeter University is that typically during puberty, teenagers exercise less and that the amount of exercise activity drops by about one-third in females between the ages of seven and 16.

Earlier research from Professor Wilkens showed that the other age when your child is susceptible to obesity is during infancy, which is generally attributable to diet and lifestyle choices made by the child’s parents.

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The importance of these findings is that it helps identify the factors that lead to obesity so that measures can be taken to stop the rising rates of teen obesity, which are expected to lead to a rise in diabetes. The news release warns that unless present weight gain trends are slowed, one in five of children born in 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime―largely because of obesity.

For some informative articles on how to prevent obesity in your child, here are a select few for your use:

Two Ways a Mother Can Protect Her Child from a Life of Obesity

Prevent Childhood Obesity at Home with This Study Advice

Prevent Obesity in Your Teens with This New Guideline

References:

University of Exeter “Teenage weight gain down to dramatic drop in calories they burn

Evidence for energy conservation during pubertal growth a 10-year longitudinal study” International Journal of Obesity; September 2016; Mohammod Mostazir et al.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

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