Reading the right type of novel may be an enjoyable way to reduce weight, according to a recent study.
Duke University researchers asked obese female children aged nine to 13, already in a comprehensive weight loss programme to read an age-appropriate novel called "Lake Rescue", published by Beacon Street Press.
It was carefully crafted with the help of paediatric experts to include specific healthy lifestyle and weight management guidance, as well as positive messages and strong role models.
Six months later, Duke researchers found that 31 girls who read "Lake Rescue" experienced a significant decrease in their body mass index (BMI) scores (minus 0.71 percent) when compared to a control group of 14 girls who hadn't (+.05 percent), informed Alexandra C. Russell, a fourth-year medical student at Duke who led the study and presented the findings at the Obesity Society's annual scientific meeting.
"As a paediatrician, I can't count the number of times I tell parents to buy a book that might provide useful advice, yet I've never been able to point to research to back up my recommendations," said Sarah Armstrong, director of Duke's Healthy Lifestyles Programme where the research took place.
"This is the first prospective interventional study that found literature can have a positive impact on healthy lifestyle changes in young girls," she said.
Obesity is becoming more prevalent in children, according to the Centres for Disease Control, which reports that 16 percent of children aged six to 19 are overweight or obese, a number that has tripled since 1980, according to a Duke University press release.
Researchers are looking at a variety of ways to help kids stay healthy, lose weight and be more active, but Armstrong says, "most don't work very well. The weight loss options that are effective typically involve taking powerful medications with side-effects, or require permanent surgical procedures."
While the BMI decrease attributed to the book is small, Armstrong says any decrease in BMI is encouraging because BMI typically increases in children as they grow and develop.
The idea that a book can positively influence weight loss and decrease BMI is "encouraging because it's fairly easy to implement", Sarah added. "And it's a welcome addition to a world where there aren't a lot of alternatives."