From Our 2010 Archives

Showing Kids How Fast They Eat May Help Them Shape Up

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) -- A computerized scale can help overweight kids lose weight by showing them how rapidly they eat, researchers have found.

The scale, known as the Mandometer device, was developed at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. It provides real-time feedback to show people their eating rate during mealtimes and compares their actual rate to an ideal rate. The goal is to teach people who are overweight how to eat more slowly and, in doing so, to eat less.

Researchers in the United Kingdom tested the device by randomly assigning 106 obese youths, 9 to 17 years old, to either a group that used the device or a group that did not use it. All participants were encouraged to exercise at least 60 minutes a day and eat a balanced diet.

After 12 months, those who were using the device had a lower body fat score and lower body mass index (a measurement of weight in relation to height) compared with those who were not using the device. Users of the device also consumed smaller portion sizes and ate more slowly than the others. A follow-up six months later showed that the improvements had been maintained, according to a report on the study, published online Jan. 6 in BMJ.

"Mandometer therapy, focusing on eating speed and meal size, seems to be a useful addition to the rather sparse options available for treating adolescent obesity effectively without recourse to pharmacotherapy," the researchers wrote. They acknowledged that the therapy requires more study but said that "retraining eating behavior and reinforcing feelings of satiety … does seem to improve weight loss in obese adolescents."

-- Randy Dotinga

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SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Jan. 5, 2010