Sunday, March 30, 2008

The annual meeting of the Scottish Nutrition Society: behavioural nutrition and energy balance in the young.

On Thursday I gave a talk at an annual Nutrition Society meeting organised by its Scottish section, in Dundee. I talked about the interplay between personal and environmental determinants of nutrition and physical activity behaviours in driving the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity.

Dr. Tim Lobstein of the International Obesity Task Force from the international association for the study of obesity presented before me. He gave a very good talk, providing the audience with ten action points to help curb the obesity epidemic, especially among children. Most of his recommendations were aiming to change the market and marketing environment for foods, and the physical environment for physical activity.

Professor John Reilly, from University of Glasgow (he is presenting in the attached picture), presented after me on the evidence that physical activity and sedentary behaviour are important for overweight and obesity in preschoolers. About 20 years ago, he reminded us, this age group was considered to be at really low risk for overweight, since such small children were thought to be moving all the time. In the last decades, things have probably changed, because more recent evidence based on objective measurements of physical activity and sedentary behaviour among 3-6 year olds shows that hardly any kids meet the recommended 60 minutes of moderate or high intensity physical activity per day. The quintile with the highest activity came up to about 45 minutes in research among UK children. Furthermore, about 80% of the waking hours were spent on sedentary ‘activities’.

To get back to my earlier item on regional foods. In his keynote, John Reilly briefly referred to a study in physical activity, sedentary behaviours and environmental determinants in South Africa he is involved in. Some of the regional speciality foods the kids there really like are ‘Walkie Talkies’. Walkie talkies are chicken heads and feet….