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Plant based diet may reduce childhood obesity: Study

By Nathan Gray , 27-Jun-2011

The regular intake of certain plant foods may prevent weight gain in children and adolescents, whilst high intake of dairy products may increase childhood weight gain, according to new research.

The study, published in Nutrition Journal, followed 1764 healthy children and adolescents attending schools in the USA to investigate the association between the risk of being overweight and the consumption of different food groups.

“This study has shown that specific plant-based food groups may have a protective role in preventing overweight among children and adolescents,” said the researchers, led by Vichuda Matthews from Loma Linda University, USA.

“Our findings [also] suggested that the intake of full fat dairy foods may be obesogenic, therefore it is important to continue to support public health guidelines that recommend the intake of reduced fat dairy products,” they added.

The researchers added that improved food policies at local, national and international levels are warranted “to ensure that plant-based foods are affordable, accessible and a desirable selection among children and adolescents.”

Study details

The researchers reported a protective association for consumption of grains and nuts on risk of overweight, whilst the risk of weight gain was increased with dairy consumption.

“Using two logistic regression analysis models controlling for gender, type of school and soda intake with and without further adjustment for other food groups, we observed a consistent inverse relationship and significant linear trend for the intake of grains, nuts and LNDF [low nutrient-dense foods] and likelihood of overweight,” said the researchers.

They added that several reasons may exist to explain why high nut and grain consumption is not associated with increased BMI, including boosting resting metabolic rate, enhancing satiety, and decreased intake of other foods.

“Grains, nuts and peanut butter are less costly than many animal-based foods and are enjoyed by most children and adolescents. However, plant-based foods have been traditionally underrepresented in school food programs,” said the authors.

“We recommended plant-based foods as one sensible approach for the prevention of obesity in children and adolescents. Plant-based dietary patterns should be encouraged and promoted in the school food programs at the local and national levels,” they concluded.

Source: Nutrition Journal
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-10-71
“The risk of child and adolescent overweight is related to types of food consumed”
Authors: V.L. Matthews, M. Wien, J. Sabate

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