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You might think that all overweight kids eat more calories than thinner kids, but according to a new study, you'd be wrong.
Younger children who are overweight do consume more calories than their thinner peers, but older overweight kids may actually eat fewer calories than their healthy-weight counterparts.
"The message for society and parents is: Don't assume that a child who's overweight is overeating. Obesity isn't just a simple matter of eating more," said study author Asheley Cockrell Skinner, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill. "Be sympathetic. Overweight children reported eating fewer calories, and to lose weight, these kids have to eat even less. It's probably even harder for them to lose weight than we give them credit for."
The study included dietary information from nearly 13,000 children between the ages of 1 and 17. The information came from U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which was conducted from 2001 to 2008. The population included in this study is representative of the U.S. population.
The food-consumption data was collected on two separate days. Children and their parents were asked to recall what the child had eaten in the last 24 hours and how much they ate of any particular food. The researchers had a number of representative measuring devices to try to get the best approximation of portion size that they could.
In the younger kids researchers found that obese and overweight children did in fact eat more calories. For example, in 3- to 5-year-olds, overweight girls consumed an average of 1,721 calories a day compared to 1,578 calories a day for their healthy weight peers. In boys of the same age, the overweight group consumed 1,809 calories a day vs. 1,668 calories a day for the normal-weight children.
But the older obese and overweight children actually ate fewer calories than the thinner kids. Between the ages of 12 and 14