(HealthDay News) – Younger obese children report consuming more daily calories than their healthy-weight peers, while obese adolescents report consuming fewer daily calories, suggesting that excessive energy intake in early childhood may lead to onset of obesity, according to a study published online Sept 10 in Pediatrics.

In an effort to assess the relationship between reported daily energy intake and categorized weight status across childhood, Asheley Cockrell Skinner, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues used a nationally representative cross-sectional sample of 12,648 children aged 1–17 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2001–2008.

The researchers found that weight status and age correlated positively with self-reported energy intake. However, there was a negative effect throughout childhood for the interaction between weight and age. Compared with their healthy-weight peers, young obese/overweight children reported consuming significantly more calories, while obese/overweight adolescents reported consuming fewer calories.

“Our findings are that, on average, across a nationally representative sample, younger overweight children have greater self-reported energy intake than their healthy-weight peers, yet overweight adolescents have lower self-reported energy intake,” the authors write. “This suggests that reducing childhood obesity may require early education on appropriate levels of energy intake and, in later childhood, a focus on non-calorie-reducing interventions such as increases in activity.”

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