Are very controlled-energy diets effective in the treatment of obesity in children, and what are the risks?

Updated: Dec 01, 2020
  • Author: Steven M Schwarz, MD, FAAP, FACN, AGAF; Chief Editor: Jatinder Bhatia, MBBS, FAAP  more...
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In general, very controlled–energy diets are hampered by high dropout rates and, in adults, have been associated with losses in lean weight, gallstone formation, cardiac arrhythmias, and sudden death. Moreover, some studies suggest that regain of weight after severe dieting may lead to overshoot, with excess weight deposited as a higher percentage of body fat. Concerns have been raised regarding the long-term cardiovascular risks of such weight cycling in adults, but the potential hazards of dramatic or cyclical weight changes in children and adolescents are unknown.

More important, the long-term effects of very controlled–energy diets on adolescent growth and development and subsequent reproductive function, musculoskeletal development, and intermediary metabolism remain poorly understood. Because of these uncertainties and the difficulties inherent in maintaining severe caloric restriction, the very controlled–energy diets cannot be recommended for the vast majority of children and adolescents with obesity.

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