Background. Family-based approaches using the parents as agents of change to treat childhood obesity are superior to programs targeting only children in achieving weight reduction and have a lower dropout rate. Objective. The aim of this study was to compare the impact of two behavioral approaches (parents only vs children only) for the treatment of childhood obesity on parental weight, eating, and activity habits as well as cardiovascular risk factors. Design. A randomized 1-year clinical intervention study was performed. Methods. Sixty obese children (≥20% over ideal weight for age, height, and sex), ages 6-11 years, were randomly allocated to the experimental (parents as sole agents of change) or conventional groups (children as sole agents of change). Fourteen (1-h-long) support/educational sessions were conducted by a clinical dietitian for the parents in the experimental group and 30 sessions for children in the conventional group. Anthropometric and biochemical measurements were determined at the start and end of the program. Results. The experimental approach, when compared to the conventional intervention, was found to be superior in the reduction of fathers overweight (P<0.05). The former approach resulted also in improved profile of risk factors for cardiovascular disease in both parents. These changes could be ascribed to a greater improvement in eating and activity behaviors observed in parents belonging to the experimental intervention group who participated in a family-based intervention to treat their children's obesity. Conclusions. Treatment of childhood obesity targeting the parents as the sole agent of change, which is more effective for the treatment of childhood obesity when compared to a children-oriented program, may in addition award parents with the benefit of changing their own eating and activity patterns, thus making this program ideal for treatment of obesity in children and their overweight parents.
- Parental cardiovascular risk factors
- Treatment of childhood obesity