Obesity and its comorbidities are a growing problem in the United States. According to the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES), 19.3 percent of all American teen boys (ages 12 through 19) are overweight or obese, and 16.8 percent of all non-pregnant American teen girls are overweight or obese. Obese individuals are more likely to have health impairments such as sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, and type II diabetes than individuals maintaining a healthy weight. However, obesity isn't a life sentence. According to the Mayo Clinic, "even modest weight loss can improve or prevent the health problems associated with obesity. You can usually lose weight through dietary changes, increased physical activity, and behavior changes."
One recent study examining the effect of a prescriptive dietary intervention has yielded encouraging results, particularly in the area of emotional eating. Emotional eating can be particularly problematic for obese teens. As the Mayo Clinic explains, "Sometimes the strongest cravings for food happen when you're at your weakest point emotionally. You may turn to food for comfort -- consciously or unconsciously." The "RESIST" trial (Researching Effective Strategies to Improve Insulin Sensitivity in Children and Teenagers) examined the effect of two prescriptive diets on various health outcomes in obese ten- to 17-year-olds in Sydney, Australia. The initial results, published in May 2013, were disappointing, as they showed no statistically significant differences in predefined endpoints between teens on a high-carb diet and teens on a moderate-carb, high-protein diet.
However, the trial data has yielded data that may help obese teens in another way: reducing emotional eating and reconnecting eating to hunger and regular mealtimes. According to an analysis published in the October 24, 2013, issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, both groups of teens (the high-carb group and the moderate-carb, high-protein group) showed a dramatic reduction in emotional eating and an increase in non-emotional eating. The researchers report, "After six months, the proportion of participants who reported consuming more in response to external eating cues decreased from 17% to 5%, whereas non-emotional eating increased from 48% to 65%." This reduction in "external [emotional] eating" was associated with greater weight loss at the three-month point of the study.
Although further study is required to draw definitive conclusions, it seems worthwhile to investigate the role of a nutritionist-planned prescriptive diet in reducing emotional eating among obese teens.