A recent study (1) found that overweight “tweens” (girls over seven years of age and boys over 10 years of age for the purpose of this study) actually eat fewer calories than their “healthy” weight peers. Interesting, if true. This would provide further support for the notion that prevention is key. While I’m a huge advocate of that sentiment and believe that its oversight is the biggest flaw in our current health care system I don’t think that this study was all that great.
The study looked at eating habits of children from the age of one to seventeen. For children under the age of six parents filled out food recall questionnaires detailing what they ate over the previous 24 hours. Children from six to eleven reported themselves but with the assistance of a parent if needed. Children over twelve reported without assistance. We know that food recall questionnaires are notoriously inaccurate. Try to remember what you ate over the last 24 hours. The researchers would also have had to calculate the calories for each child in the study. How accurate would this have been? Not knowing the exact ingredients in the meals or weight of foods I’m thinking that it would have been a bit of a crap shoot. Still, at least it would have been a fair crap shoot; all children would have been subject to the same imprecise estimation of calories. The same can’t be said for their food records.
It’s entirely possible that the overweight children under reported their food consumption. Perhaps they were trying to please the researchers and appear as healthy as possible. Perhaps there was some other difference between the overweight children and the “healthy” children that affected their ability to recall foods eaten. The problem is that we can’t say for certain that there was not something that affected recall and thus falsely gave the impression that overweight adolescents consume fewer calories than their peers.