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PR Newswire
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More Research Needed to Determine Best Treatment for Childhood Obesity

TEESSIDE, England, December 20, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --

Researchers at Teesside University have been examining drug interventions for the treatment of childhood obesity and found that, although drugs have been found to aid weight reduction in older children, more work is needed to determine their efficiency and safety.

Latest figures show that over one fifth of reception children are overweight or obese.

Treatment for childhood obesity usually involves behavior change programmes that support families to improve their dietary intake and activity levels. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence currently do not recommend drug treatment for children younger than 12, and in children 12 and older, drug treatment (orlistat) should only be used in exceptional circumstances.

Researchers from Teesside University are completing a series of reviews to examine the effectiveness of different treatments for childhood obesity.

They found pharmacological interventions such as metformin, sibutramine, orlistat and fluoxetine, may have small effects in reduction in BMI and body weight in obese older children and adolescents. Although many of the drugs reviewed are not licensed for the treatment of obesity in children or have been withdrawn in the UK

Academics at Teesside say there was insufficient evidence to inform future guidelines. However the findings support the NICE recommendations inthat there is little evidence to support the use of drugs to treat obesity in children under the age of 12 and that drugs have side effects and therefore should only be considered in exceptional circumstances.

The latest study is a continuation of the University's expertise in obesity. Academics at Teesside have also worked with Public Health England on a report which helped inform the Government's proposed introduction of sugar tax.

Dr Louisa Ells, a Reader in Teesside University's School of Health & Social Care, leads the obesity research programme at Teesside.

She said: "Drug interventions may help children achieve a small reduction in BMI and weight, but current evidence is not sufficient to make any conclusive recommendations.

"We need to be 100% clear and the evidence from this review doesn't determine whether obesity drugs are safe and effective in younger children, or whether the effects seen in older children will last. There is a lack of information about the side effects of the drugs. It is imperative that further studies are carried out to address these questions before any future recommendations about drug treatment for childhood obesity are made."

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