Junkfood Science: Evidence — there isn’t any

April 24, 2007

Evidence — there isn’t any

A systematic review of the clinical evidence on preventive programs for childhood obesity was just released by researchers from Britain. Their findings concurred with a recent post, “Critical thinking has left the building,” which delved into the evidence being used to support the UK’s new Healthy Living Initiative to address childhood obesity. They found no justification for such initiatives. No evidence exists.

The new study, just published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, was led by Dr. Marie Westwood at the University of York, York. They sought to find out what is actually known about the effectiveness of government programs being introduced in the UK and elsewhere to monitor and screen for childhood overweight and obesity in schools. Currently, children in primary schools are routinely weighed and the information submitted to the National Childhood Obesity Database as part of its monitoring programme. The parliamentary Health Select Committee recommended in 2004 that all schoolchildren be routinely weighed and the information not only be given to their parents, but the children referred for specialist treatment.

After examining all available evidence, ever published and unpublished in any language to July, 2005, they found no evidence on the effectiveness of monitoring or screening for treating childhood obesity. The available positive clinical trial evidence focused merely on the accuracy of measurements. Disturbingly lacking were studies that credibly examined the impact such screening was having on children, their parents or healthcare providers. Worse, no study identified an effective weight reduction or preventive intervention.

The said the value of moving “to screening to identify and treat individual children remains at best questionable. The effectiveness of treatment is currently doubtful and the potential harms of either monitoring or screening are poorly researched.”

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