Source: University of Auckland, 25 November 2016
Eating habits such as comfort eating and eating large amounts of
food were worryingly common, and the study revealed clear
differences in diet between young people living with obesity and
The 239 tamariki in the study were assessed when they enrolled
in a community-based 12-month intervention programme called Whānau
Pakari. Aged 4-16, the participants had BMIs in the clinically
overweight or obese range, and many had weight related health
problems. Māori and Pakeha each made up 45 percent of the group,
with the remaining 10 percent from other ethnicities.
• Two-thirds (67 percent) of participants experienced excessive
hunger and ate large amounts of food
• Half didn't feel full after a meal
• Almost two-thirds (62 percent) reported comfort eating
• Children ate 3.5 servings per day of fruit and vegetables on
average, markedly below the recommended five daily servings
• Children were not eating breakfast every day
The study was a collaboration between the Liggins Institute at
the University of Auckland, Taranaki District Health Board, and
Sport Taranaki, with funding from the Health Research Council.
"This study highlighted that there are lots of factors affecting
eating behaviour in these children," says Dr Yvonne Anderson,
Liggins Institute researcher, Taranaki paediatrician and co-author
of the study.
"As health professionals, when we see children with weight
issues, we need to address the psychological dimensions of their
Researchers also found that many of the children and adolescents
were drinking sweet drinks on a daily basis (a median volume of
250ml across the group).
"While an extra 250ml of sweet drinks might not seem much, it
means these children are consuming an extra 100kcal a day of free
sugar, and it's been estimated that extra energy intake of not much
more than that - 120kcal a day - leads to a 50kg increase in body
weight over 10 years," Dr Anderson says.
"One can of sweet drink contains three days' worth of the
recommended added sugar for young children.
"It's not just about fizzy drink but all sweet drinks. Many of
the children are drinking powdered fruit drinks, and these were the
most popular non-dairy beverage in children when this was looked at
nationally in 2002. Health policy needs to reflect this."
Obesity is everyone's problem, and we're all part of the
solution, she says.
"We all need to work together to address the food and drink
children have access to in their everyday lives - at home, school,
events, family gatherings - and ensure that the healthy choice is
the easy choice. We need to be role models for our children."
Nationally, an estimated 85,000 children aged 2-14 years are
obese, and about 4,500 in Taranaki, according to the New Zealand
Whānau Pakari means "Healthy self-assured whānau who are fully
active". The programme, which is still running, involves regular
home visits and support from a multi-disciplinary team of health
professionals to help whānau make healthy lifestyle changes.
The study was published in PLOS-ONE Journal.
·PLOS ONE - Dietary Intake and Eating Behaviours of Obese New
Zealand Children and Adolescents Enrolled in a Community-Based
·Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health - Prevalence of comorbidities in obese New Zealand
children and adolescents at enrolment in a community-based obesity