Study: These 3 healthy eating patterns can improve child obesity, overall health

Children observed in study showed improvements with weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, more

With child obesity a growing concern particularly amid the pandemic, the results of a yearlong study provide some hope: Certain healthy eating patterns can have a significant and positive impact on children's health.

Research shows that one in five children and teenagers are living with obesity -- and the coronavirus pandemic has not helped.

And while many families want to make the switch to a healthier diet, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

More: Study: Childhood obesity in U.S. accelerated during pandemic

That’s why one group of researchers set out to find which eating habits children and families could adapt to that would help improve those numbers.

A recent study from the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital decided to compare the benefits of three different types of diets for children who are obese, and uncovered a surprising challenge: their own parents.

“We studied 9 to 18 year olds who were at greater than the 95th percentile for their body mass index, which is the definition of obesity,” said Dr. Michael Macknin. “We studied them and one of their parents, and randomly assigned them to one of three healthy eating patterns: either the Mediterranean diet, the American Heart Association diet or a plant-based diet.”

Dr. Macknin says that scientists found all three healthy eating patterns had similar results when it came to improving a child’s health, including significant decreases in weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels. The risk for heart disease also declined.

But researchers made some other interesting points along the way.

For example, the child didn’t have to perfectly follow the diet. The average compliance with the diets was only 55%-65% throughout the entire yearlong study -- yet, the results still showed impressive changes.

“We encouraged everybody to follow these principles that are common to all healthy eating patterns: Eat lots of fruits and vegetables of a variety of sources, and then also have whole grains,” Macknin said. “And when you eat protein, make it a healthy protein. Don’t eat too much red meat or processed meat.”

While children often get pegged as picky eaters, the study actually found that the kids had an easier time adapting to the new diets than their parents did, which highlights the importance of introducing these healthy habits while kids are young.

Click the links below to learn more about the healthy eating patterns used in the study:


Related: Pandemic shows risk of obesity, and challenge of weight loss


About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.