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The study included 643 Swedish youngsters (313 female and 330 male) aged 6 to 16, who began "behavioral treatment" for obesity between 1998 and 2006. The investigators used a scoring method for assessing weight data that took into account the age and gender of each study participant and allowed for analysis of differences over time.
Moderately obese children in the youngest age group had a good response to behavioral therapy. The treatment was less effective in older children with moderate obesity, but still had a significant effect, the researchers found.
Severely obese young children had the best response to behavioral therapy, but it had little effect on severely obese teens, said Pernilla Danielsson, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and colleagues.
The study was slated for presentation Friday at the European Congress on Obesity in Lyon, France.
"Behavioral treatment is successful when initiated early in life both for moderately and severely obese children," Danielsson said in a news release. "Adolescents with severe obesity show no effect at all of behavioral treatment, while those adolescents with moderate obesity show a response that is much less pronounced than for younger children with moderate obesity."
Among severely obese teens in the study, 92 percent were already obese and 51 percent were severely obese by the time they reached age 7. Among moderately obese teens, 46 percent were obese by age 7, and 8 percent were severely obese at that age.
"This means early treatment may be one way to reduce treatment failures during adolescence," Danielsson said. "For the severely obese adolescents, new treatment [methods] such as gastric banding or gastric bypass need to be developed and tested."
The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
-- Robert Preidt
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