Author: Jana Pařízková

Physical Activity, Fitness, Nutrition and Obesity During Growth

eBook: US $49 Special Offer (PDF + Printed Copy): US $156
Printed Copy: US $131
Library License: US $196
ISBN: 978-1-60805-947-8 (Print)
ISBN: 978-1-60805-946-1 (Online)
Year of Publication: 2015
DOI: 10.2174/97816080594611140101


Changes of dietary intake imbalanced with energy needs of growing children since earliest periods of life pose an inherent risk of obesity coupled with deteriorating health effects. Increasing body mass index (BMI) and excessive adiposity, along with decreasing physical fitness resulting from reduced physical activity predispose children and adolescents towards obesity later in their adult life. A suitable lifestyle including proper physical activity regimes and exercises of adequate character, intensity, regularity and frequency has been shown to prevent or reduce undesirable body fatness and accompanying functional and health risks. This eBook focuses on research findings and recommendations to mitigate obesity risks since early growth stages.



Since several decades, childhood overweight steeply increased, but after around the year 2000, a plateau or even a decline in prevalence rates has been reported in many industrialized countries (Rokholm et al., 2010). However, the problem remains important, since the prevalence of childhood obesity is still high in many countries. While prevalence of childhood obesity was increasing, energy intake was decreasing, particularly due to decreasing fat intake (Rolland-Cachera 2002; Gibson 2010; Alexy et al. 2002). This paradoxical situation can be explained by decreasing physical activity and increasing sedentary lifestyle (Butte et al. 2007). Indeed, exercise has beneficial effects limiting the development of obesity and improving fitness in children (Kellou et al. 2014; Pařízková 2008). Decreased energy intake is reported in all age groups, but the hypothesis of decreasing physical activity to account for by decreasing energy intake is less convincing in very young children. Other factors may explain the rising trend of obesity. The role of environmental factors in early life in predicting later health has generated substantial interest in recent years (Hanley et al. 2010). The early adiposity rebound recorded in most obese subjects (Rolland-Cachera et al. 2006) suggests that factors promoting body fat development have operated in the first years of life. Particularly, early nutrition can exert long-lasting influence on health. Birth weight, growth velocity, adiposity rebound and body mass index trajectories seem to be highly sensitive to the nutritional conditions present during pregnancy and in the first years of life. Early inadequate nutrient balance in early life may account for by the paradox of increasing obesity and decreasing energy intake. The low protein-high fat diet recorded in many young children, which contrasts with the low protein-high fat composition of human milk, may favour the development of obesity (Rolland-Cachera et al. 2006; Michaelsen and Greer 2014; Rolland- Cachera et al. 2013). High protein intake can promote overweight via increasing Insulin like growth factors 1 and dietary fat restrictions can decrease energy density, thus programming adaptive metabolism to prevent underweight and increasing the susceptibility to develop later overweight and metabolic diseases (Rolland-Cachera et al. 2013). A “mismatch” between early restrictions and later positive energy balance due to increasing fat intake and low energy expenditure due to sedentary lifestyle could be particularly harmful.

In conclusion, nutrient balance of the diet varies according to the age of the child. In spite of official recommendations that dietary fat should not be restricted in young children, fat intake is often low in early life and increases with age. It should be high in early childhood and decrease with age. The high protein low fat diet recorded in early life, and low physical activity in children may have contributed to the obesity epidemic. The consequences of inadequate nutrition at different ages, and the rising sedentary lifestyle in children stress the importance of providing nutritional intakes adapted to the child’s metabolic needs at the various stages of growth and of promoting physical activity which contributes to an optimal energy balance and improves health and fitness.

Marie Françoise Rolland-Cachera
Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, France


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