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expert reaction to study looking at trends in weight loss attempts among children in England children from 1997 to 2016

A study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood looks at trends in weight loss attempts among children in England.


Dr Paul Jenkins, Associate Professor in the School of Psychology, University of Reading, said:

“The dataset is large and, by virtue of its sampling, seemingly representative.  The apparent increase in the numbers of children expressing a desire to lose weight in those who could be considered to be at a “healthy” weight for their age is particularly concerning and some of the findings might challenge stereotypes regarding weight loss (e.g., the increase in the number of adolescent boys looking to lose weight and greater weight loss attempts in children from lower income households relative to those with higher income).

“Some of the findings do need to be considered in context.  For example, there were fewer respondents in the years 2011-12 and 2013-14 (where some figures seem to peak) and parental supervision for younger children (8 – 12) may have influenced honest responding in this age group.  Importantly, there are limitations regarding what can be learned about weight loss attempts given that it was assessed on the basis of a single question.  For example, asking about whether children are trying to lose weight “at the present time” could overlook previous attempts (whether successful or not) and there is little insight into the reasons for weight loss, such as for improved health, appearance, peer acceptance, and so on – which is clearly an important goal for further research.”


Prof Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, University of Glasgow, said:

“There are no surprises in these results even if study is well done.  As weight levels are rising across all age groups including children, so more children would be encouraged by family members or be self motivated to try to lose weight for multiple reasons.  Sadly, also no surprise excess weight efforts more common in less affluent communities where obesity is more common.  The issue is the NHS is already struggling with management of excess weight in adults with more resources needed here.  However, as excess weight is a major cause of many diseases (and causes much suffering), additional funding to tackle and help prevent or attenuate excess weight gain in younger people may well pay dividends in the future, and save the NHS money.  Additional relevant research is urgently needed, including understanding why some children of normal weight may be pushed in to weight loss efforts.”



‘Trends in weight loss attempts among children in England’ by Aryati Ahmad et al. was published in Archives of Disease in Childhood at 23:30 UK time on Monday 18 July 2022.

DOI: 10.1136/archdischild-2021-323493



Declared interests

Prof Naveed Sattar has consulted for Novo Nordisk, Eli-Lilly, Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim in areas related to weight management.

For all other experts, no reply to our request for DOIs was received.

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