(HealthDay News) – In order for the nation to achieve Healthy People 2020 childhood obesity prevention goals, children on average would need to reduce their daily caloric intake by 64 calories.

Y. Claire Wang, MD, ScD, of Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues estimated the needed per capita reductions in youths’ daily “energy gap” (calories consumed minus calories expended) to achieve Healthy People 2020 obesity goals by using models of obesity, weight, and body mass index (BMI) trends derived from 46,164 youth participants of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 1971–2008.

The researchers found that mean BMI and weight among US youth increased by 0.55kg/m² and by 1.54kg per decade, respectively, from 1971–2008. Extrapolating this data, it is predicted that the average weight among youth in 2020 would increase by approximately 1.8kg from 2007–2008 levels. An average reduction of 41kcal/day would be necessary to prevent this weight increase. To meet Healthy People 2010 and Healthy People 2020 goals, additional reductions of 120 and 23kcal/day, respectively, would be necessary. Even greater reductions are needed among adolescents and minority youth.

“Aggressive efforts are needed to reverse the positive energy imbalance underlying the childhood obesity epidemic,” the authors write. “The energy-gap metric provides a useful tool for goal setting, intervention planning, and charting progress.”

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