More children are trying to lose weight than a decade ago

Photo: © POOL/AFP Thomas Frey

More children aged 8-17 trying to lose weight than a decade ago, including children of a healthy weight according to new research.


A study from the University of Oxford  has identified that over a quarter (26.5 percent) of children reported trying to lose weight between 2015 and 2016. This is a 5 percent increase over 1997 and 1998.

The largest increases in weight loss attempts were seen in boys, older children, Asian children, and children from lower income households.

To arrive at these findings, the researchers examined data from over 34,000 children aged 8-17 who participated in the Health Survey for England (HSE) from 1997-2016. Using this data, the researchers tracked how common weight loss attempts were across several sociodemographic characteristics, including age, gender, weight status, ethnicity, and household income.

Childhood obesity has been a government priority in England in 2004, and in 2006 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published their first guidelines on the prevention and treatment of excess weight in children leading to a rise in the commissioning of child weight management interventions or programmes.

The current trends show this has not been wholly successful for the number of children reporting weight loss attempts is growing at a faster rate than the rise in excess weight.

The study used World Health Organization classifications of weight as defined by the BMI-Z score, used for children who are still growing, which considers height, weight, gender, and age.

Attempts to lose weight if a child is overweight or obese is disproportionate. This is more likely to occur if a child is female, from an ethnic minority group or living in a low-income household. hence, sociodemographic determinants are important.

Melissa Little, registered Dietitian and Doctoral student at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, who was one of the study leads states: “There’s been a steady rise in the number of children with overweight or obesity in England over the past decades amongst children and young people. However, we don’t know much about the numbers or characteristics of those children who may be attempting to lose weight.”

She adds: “For this study, we wanted to see if there were any trends or changes in the prevalence of weight loss attempts amongst 8- to 17-year-old children.”

The research has been published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. The study is titled “Trends in weight loss attempts among children in England.”

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