Table of Contents
- Is This Why Your Teen Is Gaining Weight?
- Teenage weight gain down to dramatic drop in calories they burn
- Pediatric and Adolescent Abnormal Weight Gain
- What are the causes of Pediatric and Adolescent Abnormal Weight Gain?
- Excessive weight gain in early childhood affects teenage heart health
Is This Why Your Teen Is Gaining Weight?
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 21, 2016 (HealthDay News)—A new study suggests that children’s metabolism temporarily slows during puberty—a pattern that might help explain the current teen obesity problem.
The study found that kids’ resting energy expenditure typically dropped during puberty. That refers to the number of calories the body burns at rest.
On average, the researchers found, 15-year-olds used about 450 fewer calories at rest each day, compared to when they were 10 years old.
The shift is surprising, experts said, since larger bodies usually burn more calories at rest—to fuel brain activity, the cardiovascular system and the other bodily processes that keep us alive.
“Body mass is the strongest predictor of resting energy expenditure. So a fall in puberty, when growth is rapid, is unexpected,” said lead researcher Dr. Terence Wilkin, a professor of endocrinology and metabolism at the University of Exeter in England.
The reasons for the pattern aren’t clear, but Wilkin speculated on an explanation: The human body may have evolved to conserve calories during the critical period of puberty, to help ensure adequate growth and development.
During the long span of human history when food was scarce, that would have made sense. But now, when abundance is often the issue, that drop in calorie-burning during puberty may feed excess weight gain, he said.
“The danger for any child at this age is the free availability of calories at a time when he has money in his pocket and increasing freedom from the home,” Wilkin said.
Dr. Scott Kahan is director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C., and a spokesman for the Obesity Society.
He agreed that the study results are surprising.
“As with any new finding, this needs to be verified in future studies,” said Kahan, who wasn’t involved in the research.
But if resting metabolism does indeed decline during puberty, he said, that would make it even more important for kids to stay active and have healthy diets during those years.
“We can’t really do anything about resting energy expenditure,” Kahan said. “But you can do something about physical activity, which also declines during puberty.”
The study findings are based on nearly 350 schoolchildren who were followed for more than a decade. Each year between the ages of 7 and 16, the children had their weight, body composition and resting metabolism measured.
On average, Wilkin’s team found, kids were burning about one-quarter fewer calories at rest when they were 15 years old, compared to age 10. But by age 16, their resting metabolism started to rise again.
Whether that reflects some aspect of human evolution is not clear. But it’s a “reasonable hypothesis,” Kahan said.
“But what does this mean, practically?” he said. “I think the findings lend more weight to the importance of healthful eating and physical activity.”
In this study, most kids started exercising less during puberty—which meant their voluntary, as well as involuntary calorie-burning dipped. However, Wilkin said, another analysis of the same group found that the effect of exercise on kids’ risk of obesity was “essentially nil.”
He emphasized the role of diet.
During puberty, Wilkin noted, most kids are “ravenously” hungry—even though, if this study is correct, their calorie-burning declines.
“I’m not sure whether that’s always the sign of a need to eat, or a primeval signal to ensure you do eat,” Wilkin said.
The problem, he added, is that kids today have easy access to calorie-laden foods that past generations did not.
Kahan advises parents to stock the kitchen with nutritious foods. “So when your kids are starving, that’s what they reach for,” he said.
He also emphasized the importance of starting sound health habits early: When kids go into puberty with healthy eating and exercise habits, they’ll be more likely to maintain them.
But while nutrition and exercise are vital, Kahan said the new findings underscore another fact: Weight management is complex.
“If your child has weight issues, it’s important to be nurturing and sensitive about it,” Kahan said. “Remember that kids may be doing the best they can , but there are underlying physiological processes at work, too.”
The study findings were published this month in the International Journal of Obesity.
As if dealing with raging hormones, relationship drama and spots wasn’t bad enough, many teens struggle with weight gain when puberty sets in.
Now, scientists say they understand why this happens – and it’s all to do with the amount of calories they are burning off.
MORE: EASY SWAPS TO MAKE YOUR BAKING HEALTHIER
Apparently, teenagers burn up to 500 fewer calories a day than younger children, which researchers have suggested might be a result of evolutionary traits.
Professor Terry Wilkin, who lead the research, told the MailOnline: ‘It could be that we have evolved to preserve calories to ensure we have enough to support changes in the body during puberty, but now they have sufficient calories each day, the drop in spend means excess weight gain.’
MORE: 10 WAYS TO EAT HEALTHILY ON A TIGHT BUDGET
Of course there’s also the issue that teens tend to exercise less than younger children, adding to the calorie excess, which has been linked to rise in obesity.
There is good news for teens, however – by the age of 16, the experts found that calorie expenditure begins to climb again, so like most of the less wonderful aspects of puberty, it certainly doesn’t last forever!
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Teenage weight gain down to dramatic drop in calories they burn
Research led by the University of Exeter Medical School, published in the Nature journal The International Journal of Obesity, found unexpectedly that when they reach puberty, both girls and boys experience a rapid drop in the number of calories they burn — at a time when the number would be expected to rise with the growth spurt.
The research by Professor Terence Wilkin, of the University of Exeter Medical School, found that 15-year-olds use 400 to 500 fewer calories while at rest per day compared to when they were 10-years-old — a fall of around a quarter. But by the age of 16, their calorie expenditure begins to climb once again. For comparison, a McDonalds Big Mac contains 508 calories and it would take an hour of Zumba to burn 500 calories through exercise. The study also found that teenagers exercise less during puberty, adding to the calorie excess that underlies obesity. This exercise drop is particularly stark in girls, whose activity level drops by around a third between the ages of seven and 16.
The new findings, which come after the government launched a strategy to tackle the dramatic rise in childhood obesity, may help explain why may youngsters become obese in puberty. The World Health Organization (WHO) regards childhood obesity as one of the most serious global public health challenges for the 21st century. The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) measures the height and weight of around one million school children in England every year, found that a third of 10-11 year olds were overweight or obese.
Professor Terry Wilkin, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “Child obesity and associated diabetes are both among the greatest health challenges of our time. Our findings can explain why puberty why teenagers gain excess weight in puberty, and it could help target strategies accordingly.”
We spend calories in two ways — voluntary spend through physical activity and the much larger involuntary spend, simply to stay alive. Thinking, keeping blood warm, and keeping the heart, liver and kidneys working together use up to 1,600 calories per day in adolescence.
This involuntary spend might be expected to rise with body size, and among the children studied, the calorie expenditure rose as expected from the age of five onwards — but researchers were surprised to see the children studied experience a sudden drop in calorie expenditure during puberty, from the age of 10 onwards. This was particularly surprising as it is a period of rapid growth, and growth uses lots of calories.
During the 12-year-long study, between 2000 and 2012, the research team analysed data gathered from nearly 350 school children in the Earlybird study, based in Plymouth in the UK. The children were assessed every six months between the ages of five and 16, during which blood samples were given to assess metabolic health and measurements of size, body composition, metabolic rate and physical activity taken. Of this set, 279 children gave data that made them eligible for the latest study.
Burning calories uses up a fixed amount of oxygen. The children rested in a sealed canopy and their oxygen consumption was measured over a period of time, to enable researchers to calculate their calorie use from the amount of oxygen consumed.
The study builds on research published by Professsor Wilkin last year which showed that children are particularly susceptible to weight gain at two stages — once in infancy, probably attributable to diet and lifestyle choices made by the child’s parents, and again in puberty. This second peak was previously unexplained. The new research suggests it may be explained by a drop in the number of calories young teenagers burn while at rest during puberty.
Professor Wilkin said: “When we looked for an explanation for the rising obesity in adolescence, we were surprised to find a dramatic and unexpected drop in the number of calories burned while at rest during puberty. We can only speculate as to why, but it could be a result of an evolutionary trait to save calories for growth that may now contribute to a dangerous rise in adolescent obesity in cultures where food is in abundance. It could be that we have evolved to preserve calories to ensure we have enough to support changes in the body during puberty, but now we they have sufficient calories each day, the drop in spend means excess weight gain”
Proessor Wilkin’s research career spans more than 30 years, with early work in thyroid disease and more recent work on causes and treatments of type 1 diabetes. The Earlybird study has published more than 60 peer-reviewed papers and unique data on the behaviour of insulin resistance during childhood.
The study was set up to try to establish why so many young people are at risk of developing diabetes. Some 2.3 million people in the UK know they have diabetes. A further 750,000 have diabetes but don’t yet know it. By the time they are diagnosed, half will already have complications. Type 2 diabetes, so-called ‘adult’ diabetes, is by far the commonest form, and it is of concern that teenagers and even younger children are now affected by it. It has been predicted that, unless present trends are slowed, one in five of children born in 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime — largely because of obesity.
The study, which involved collaboration with Plymouth University, was funded by the Bright Futures Trust, Fountain Foundation, BUPA Foundation, and the EarlyBird Diabetes Trust.
A Registered Dietitian (sometimes called a nutritionist) who specializes in working with teens is a great part of the treatment team. The dietitian will make an individualized plan for your teen, taking the whole family into account. Your teen will learn specific ways to get the nutrition he needs to reach a healthier weight. Sometimes, one visit is all that is necessary to get on track. In other cases, follow-up visits are recommended until weight gain and health goals are accomplished. Your teen’s dietitian will set the pace for how often they meet, be it once a month, every other week or on a weekly basis.
A mental health counselor or therapist who specializes in working with teens may be helpful with goal setting and providing help with any anxiety related to food and health.
What are the best fluids to drink?
Energy or calorie-containing fluids include: whole milk, 100% fruit juice, smoothies, milk shakes (including nutritional supplements or homemade milkshakes), and Carnation Breakfast Essentials® powder. Avoid calorie-free or low-calorie drinks such as diet soda, Crystal Lite®, or seltzer water. Your teen should drink at least 8 ounces of calorie-containing fluids with each meal and snack. Generally, fluids can help promote weight gain because they are relatively less filling than solid foods providing similar energy (calories).
What about protein bars?
Protein bars are another type of supplement. They come in many different brands and flavors. Bars that have a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat are okay to have as a snack or part of a snack. Avoid bars that are extremely high in any one nutrient.
Are there any foods or fluids my teen should avoid?
Certain foods and drinks that lessen appetite and those with no nutritional value should be avoided. Encourage your teen to omit or decrease his consumption of caffeine and caffeine-containing products.
Examples of caffeine-containing products to avoid include:
- Coffee, lattes, and tea
- Caffeinated soda
- Energy drinks such as Red Bull®
Other foods to avoid:
- Sugar-free foods
- Calorie-free fluids
- Fat-free foods
- Low-fat foods
- Low-carb foods
How do I make sure my teen doesn’t gain too much weight?
Your teen’s health care provider will be checking his weight periodically. When weight maintenance is appropriate, you will be informed. Simply altering some ingredients (decreasing the number of servings of fruit juices or other calorie-rich drinks) will help to reduce the amount of daily calories if necessary. Working with a dietitian can help with the transition to weight maintenance. It is very important to focus on overall health and maximizing energy levels, instead of over emphasizing the numbers on the scale. Remember, young teens are growing and gaining height, which requires an increase in body weight that is consistent with increasing height.
It’s okay to encourage your teen to finish his meal or snack, but do not force him to eat or to clean his plate. Prepare meals with high energy/calorie-dense foods and keep the volume of food normal or increase slowly.
It’s a great idea to offer a second helping of any food that your teen enjoys. For example, if he loves mashed potatoes, an extra scoop is great. If he is super thirsty at lunch, it’s fine for her to have another glass of juice, whole milk, or lemonade. If he is particularly hungry after school, give him an extra snack or double the snack portion. Take advantage of time of day when your teen’s appetite is best.
Eating on a schedule can help. Encourage your teen to eat three meals each day and three snacks in the mid-morning, afternoon, and evening before bedtime.
Make an appointment with a dietitian who specializes in working with teens. The nutritionist will make an individualized plan for your teen with consideration for the eating habits of other family members. Your teen will learn specific ways to get the nutrition he needs to reach a healthier weight.
Be sure that food and nutrition doesn’t take up all your time and thoughts or become the main focus of time spent together. Thinking and talking about good nutrition are key when trying to encourage weight gain, but remember to have discussions about school, sports, current events, and feelings with your teen, too.
Pediatric and Adolescent Abnormal Weight Gain
What are the causes of Pediatric and Adolescent Abnormal Weight Gain?
Abnormal weight gain can occur due to several medical conditions, side effects of medication, or physical and lifestyle changes.
- Asthma and allergies – Breathing difficulties can make it harder for children to be active, leading to weight gain.
- Cushing syndrome – Occurs when the body produces too much of the hormone cortisol. Weight gain typically occurs around the face, midsection, shoulders and upper back.
- Depression – Children with depression can gain weight due to loss of interest in activities.
- Growth hormone (GH) deficiency – A medical condition that causes not enough growth hormone to be present in the body. In addition to weight gain, there can be more fat deposits around the face and stomach areas.
- Hypothyroidism – With this condition, the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone. This can affect a child’s metabolism and lead to weight gain.
- Insulinoma – Occurs when a pancreatic tumor produces excessive amounts of insulin. Children typically gain weight while consuming additional calories to help stabilize blood sugar levels, but they are unable to exercise due to rapid drops in blood sugar.
- Leptin resistance – The leptin hormone is produced by the body’s fat cells. It tells the brain when there’s enough fat stored and regulates energy balance. Leptin resistance occurs when the brain no longer recognizes the leptin’s function and thinks the body is starving.
- Prader-Willi syndrome – This genetic disorder can cause constant hunger, leading to obesity.
Side effects of medication
- Antidepressants – While the exact cause is unknown, there are several theories as to why weight gain is caused, including metabolic influences that result in cravings and increased appetite.
- Antihistamines – Histamine (chemicals in the body that respond to an infection or allergy) causes reduced appetites. While specific effects are unknown, antihistamines can have an opposite effect, increasing appetite and leading to weight gain.
- Anti-seizure medications – Some anti-seizure medications have been shown to cause weight gain as appetite and energy levels change.
- Oral steroids – Side effects from steroid medications include insomnia, increased appetite and water retention, all of which can lead to weight gain.
Physical and lifestyle changes
- Activity levels – One of the largest contributors to a weight imbalance is a drastic decrease in activity levels while there is an increase in food consumption. The American Health Association recommends all children age 2 and older should have at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day.
- Gut health – The human body needs the appropriate balance of microbes (gut flora) in the stomach in order to properly function and maintain a healthy weight.
- Puberty – Increased hormones in a child’s body during puberty (between the ages of 10 and 14 for girls and between the ages of 12 and 16 for boys) leads to growth and possible expansion of “baby fat” areas. This typically takes place in girls’ belly, breast area and hips. Boys’ shoulders will get broader.
Excessive weight gain in early childhood affects teenage heart health
Obesity and cardiovascular risk factors in childhood and adolescence are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood, the leading cause of death in Australia.
Published today in The Journal of Paediatrics, the study tracked the Body Mass Index (BMI) of children from birth to 14 years and found that earlier onset of high BMI (in children under two years) resulted in higher cholesterol levels, higher blood pressure, and more central (unhealthy) fat in adolescence, compared with onset of high BMI in children aged three to five.
Teenage obesity is a major health problem in Australia, but the pathways to and the consequences of obesity in teenagers has not been well studied. This is the first study to look at the consequences of weight gain at two different stages of early childhood and its impact on developing cardiovascular disease as an adult.
“Our study found that there are two main pathways to obesity as a teenager — rapid weight gain in the first two years of life (early weight gain) or rapid weight gain between ages two and five years of age (later weight gain),” said senior author University of Sydney’s Professor David Celermajer, Scandrett Professor of Cardiology at Sydney Medical School and the Heart Research Institute.
“The data shows that there are consequences of the timing of the onset of excess BMI in early childhood.
“Earlier onset of a rising BMI that persisted through childhood results in greater central fat and higher cholesterol in teenagers, independent of their BMI at 14 years.”
A group of 410 Australian children were assessed from birth throughout childhood to age 14 years, recording their weight, height, and waist circumference. Of the 410 children, 190 had detailed measurements of cholesterol, blood pressure and central weight recorded at age 14 years.
Three groups were identified in the study: normal BMI, “Early Rising” excess BMI from two years, and “Late Rising” excess BMI from five years.
Lead author Dr Jennifer Barraclough, cardiologist and PhD student at University of Sydney and the Heart Research Institute said: “The early weight gain group have more centrally placed or unhealthy fat than the later weight gain group. Fat around the middle is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease in adulthood.
“The early weight gain group also had significantly higher cholesterol levels compared to a group of healthy weight teenagers.
“Our study shows that the earlier the onset of excess fat before five years of age, the more likely the individual is to have fat around the middle by adolescence.
“The study also found that both early and late weight gain groups were more likely to have mothers with overweight or obesity and a high BMI, than healthy weight teenagers.”
Co-author Professor Louise Baur, Head of Child & Adolescent Health at the University’s Sydney Medical School and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead said: “This study has shown that it is important for families and the community to understand the risks of excess weight gain in early life and to ensure healthy eating and activity are supported from a very young age.
“These findings may provide an opportunity to identify “high risk” young children and trial interventions at an early age, prior to the development of high cholesterol and centrally placed fat which becomes evident in adolescence and increases the risk of heart disease as an adult.”
Professor Baur highlighted the importance of healthy infant feeding.
“Breastfeeding should be supported where possible until at least 12 months, with solids introduced from around 6 months.
“Healthy eating and physical activity for all family members is also an important factor promoting healthy weight gain in the young child. Family doctors and early childhood nurses can also help to monitor weight gain in this critical period of life,” she said.