Should diet and lifestyle interventions be focused only on the parents of overweight children?
Across the world more children are becoming overweight and obese. These children are more likely to suffer from health problems, both as children and later in life. The home environment is an important factor in childhood obesity, with parents playing a large role in food choice and physical activity for their children. Parents have been defined as ‘agents of change’ in the family for intervening with overweight children aged under 12 years, and their input may be sufficient to effect a change in these children. When developing diet and physical activity lifestyle interventions to address childhood obesity, should they be aimed at the parents and children or to the parents alone?
A team of Cochrane authors based in the United Kingdom worked with the Cochrane Metabolic and Endocrine Disorders Group to assess the efficacy of diet, physical activity, and behavioural interventions delivered to parents only for the treatment of overweight and obesity in children aged 5 to 11 years. Included in the review were 20 randomized controlled trials delivered to 3,057 parents. The interventions were all different but most focussed on all three components of diet, physical activity, and behaviour change interventions.
Results suggest that parent-only interventions are similar to parent-child interventions, and minimal contact interventions, but that they are better at improving children’s weight than interventions where there was a delay in delivery of the intervention until the end of the trial.
There were some issues of poor quality in the included studies. “This systematic review has identified 10 ongoing trials which when completed should help improve the robustness of the analyses,” said Emma Loveman, the lead author of the review. “Together with other reviews the results of this current review provides information that can be used to underpin clinical guidelines and health policy on the treatment of childhood overweight or obesity. If parent-only interventions are similar to parent-child interventions, then cost analyses could determine which intervention to go with.”