In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Chris Roberts of the University of California Los Angeles explores the link between lifestyle and health in teens.
Chris Roberts is an associate research professor in the UCLA School of Nursing. As principal investigator in the Exercise and Metabolic Disease Research Laboratory (EMDR), Roberts investigates the efficacy and mechanisms by which exercise training and diet interventions prevent metabolic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. His work on exercise and metabolic disorders has been widely published.
Dr. Chris Roberts – Lifestyle and Teen Obesity
In the United States, over one-third of adolescents are overweight or obese. The unhealthy lifestyle factors that begin in childhood, such as physical inactivity, lack of exercise training, and diets that are high in refined carbohydrates and fat, contribute to both the development of obesity and diseases such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes and even certain forms of cancer. What has not been clear, however, is whether obesity itself or the associated lifestyle factors are the underlying causes of cardiovascular and metabolic dysfunction and the related development of chronic disease.
We wanted to learn more about the impact of lifestyle changes in both lean and obese children. Both groups of kids took part in a two-week intensive lifestyle modification program where they ate a high-fiber, plant based diet and exercised for about two hours every day.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that changes would only impact the obese children, but in fact, both groups improved their risk factors similarly with little weight loss, and in fact there was no weight loss in the lean children!
Our findings suggest that short-term lifestyle modification through changing diet and exercise can have an immediate impact on improving cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors. And regardless of whether children are obese or not, they can still improve their health without losing weight or reversing obesity. We believe these findings are important as they illustrate the need to shift the focus to changing lifestyles as opposed to just focusing on body weight and weight loss.
Our next step is to perform a randomized controlled trial investigating the effects of lifestyle intervention in normal weight and obese adults.