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Over a quarter (26.5%) of children reported trying to lose weight between 2015 and 2016, a 5% increase over 1997 and 1998, finds new research from the University of Oxford.

More children aged 8-17 trying to lose weight than a decade ago, including children of a healthy weight © Shutterstock

The largest increases in weight loss attempts were seen in boys, older children, Asian children, and children from lower income households, according to the study published today in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The researchers examined data from over 34,000 children aged 8-17 who participated in the Health Survey for England (HSE) from 1997-2016. Using this data, the researchers tracked how common weight loss attempts were across several sociodemographic characteristics, including age, gender, weight status, ethnicity, and household income.

Childhood obesity was first identified as a government priority in England in 2004, and in 2006 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published their first guidelines on the prevention and treatment of excess weight in children leading to a rise in the commissioning of child weight management interventions or programmes.

Melissa Little, registered Dietitian and Doctoral student at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, said: 'There’s been a steady rise in the number of children with overweight or obesity in England over the past decades amongst children and young people. However, we don’t know much about the numbers or characteristics of those children who may be attempting to lose weight. So, for this study, we wanted to see if there were any trends or changes in the prevalence of weight loss attempts amongst 8- to 17-year-old children.'

The study adhered to the World Health Organization classifications of weight as defined by the BMI-Z score, used for children who are still growing, which considers height, weight, gender, and age.

Read the full story on the University of Oxford website. 

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