HealthDay News — Obesity prevention interventions in children can be effective, according to a review published online first in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Elizabeth Waters, MPH, DPhil, from the University of Melbourne in Australia, and colleagues reviewed available literature to update a previous Cochrane review on childhood obesity prevention research. Studies that used a controlled design and evaluated interventions, policies or programs in place for twelve weeks or more were included. Data on intervention implementation, cost, equity and outcomes were extracted. Meta-analyses using available BMI or  zBMI scores were performed with subgroup analysis by age group.

The researchers identified 55 studies, the majority of which targeted children aged 6 to 12 years. A meta-analysis of 37 studies, including 27,946 children, confirmed that programs were effective at reducing adiposity, but individual interventions were not all effective, and the observed heterogeneity was high (I² = 82 percent).

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“We found strong evidence to support beneficial effects of child obesity prevention programs on BMI, particularly for programs targeted to children aged 6 to 12 years,” Waters and colleagues wrote.

A standardized mean difference in adiposity of −0.15 kg/m² was seen overall for children in the intervention groups, with intervention effects of −0.26 kg/m² for 0- to 5-year-olds; −0.15 kg/m² for 6- to 12-year olds; and −0.09 kg/m² for 13- to 18-year-olds. There was unexplained heterogeneity seen in all age groups.

Eight studies reported adverse effects, and there was no evidence of adverse outcomes, such as unhealthy dieting practices, increased prevalence of underweight or body image sensitivities.

Waters E et al. Cochrane Review. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001871.pub3.