As they age, overweight and obese children begin to consume significantly fewer calories than their healthy weight peers, according to the results of a study published online on September 10, 2012, in Pediatrics. The study was based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2001 through 2008.
The researchers looked at weight status and dietary reports from 12,648 children aged 1 to 17 years. Weight status was recorded based on weight-for-length percentile for those younger than 2 years and BMI percentile for those aged 2 to 17 years. Dietary intake was recorded through a detailed recall of all food and drink consumed during 2 days.
The results showed that younger obese and overweight children generally reported consuming more calories than their healthy weight peers, but obese and overweight girls older than 7 years and boys older than 10 years reported consuming fewer calories than their healthy weight peers. The difference in caloric intake between overweight/obese and healthy weight adolescents increased with age. These findings suggest that increased energy intake early in childhood leads to obesity, but it is perpetuated through mechanisms such as lower metabolism and lower activity levels.