Academy Releases Position Paper: "Registered Dietitian Nutritionists Play Vital Role in Preventing Overweight, Obesity in Children"

February 17, 2022

CHICAGO – Registered dietitian nutritionists, who are the food and nutrition experts, can help decrease the number of children diagnosed with overweight or obesity by collaborating with caregivers, educators, health care providers and legislators to provide children with nutritious foods and opportunities for physical activity, according to a new position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

According to the position paper “Prevention of Pediatric Overweight and Obesity: Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Based on an Umbrella Review of Systematic Reviews” published in the February issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that prevention of pediatric overweight and obesity requires multilevel, multicomponent and culturally appropriate interventions with family involvement to improve and sustain intake of healthy dietary patterns and physical activity in a developmentally appropriate manner throughout childhood and adolescence. Registered dietitian nutritionists are uniquely qualified to advocate for and deliver nutrition counseling in child-based settings; develop and deliver theory-based nutrition education programs; and implement environmental and policy changes to improve access to healthy foods.

This new paper updates position papers from 2013 and 2014 and includes evidence from more than 20 recent systematic reviews on interventions to prevent overweight and obesity for children and adolescents ages 2 to 17.

The authors say preventing overweight and obesity in children and adolescents requires a comprehensive strategy that includes nutrition and physical activity interventions, multicomponent, multi-level or multi-setting interventions and government policies to improve access to healthful foods. In addition, the authors encourage changes in food marketing to children and adolescents that would promote healthy eating and nutritious foods and drinks.

The position paper breaks down the most effective interventions to improve the Body Mass Index measures of children and adolescents based on evidence reviewed for each age group:

  • Children ages 2 to 5 benefit from nutrition and physical activity interventions which included those at home and with family members. They also benefit from community-based interventions and those delivered in a health care setting.
  • Children ages 6 to 12 benefit from school-based interventions which often expose them to healthful foods and opportunities to participate in physical activity. Evidence also supported having caregivers regulate screen time and limit children’s use of electronic media.

Although the evidence is limited for adolescents ages 13 to 17, multicomponent interventions focused on promoting healthful foods and drinks improve BMI measures.

To learn more about children’s nutrition, visit the Academy’s website. To find a registered dietitian nutritionist near you, use the Academy’s online Find a Nutrition Expert service.

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Representing more than 112,000 credentialed nutrition and dietetics practitioners, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at www.eatright.org.