Treatment of Pediatric Obesity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials

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The efficacy of treatments for pediatric obesity remains unclear.


We performed a systematic review of randomized trials to estimate the efficacy of nonsurgical interventions for pediatric obesity.

Data Sources:

Librarian-designed search strategies of nine electronic databases from inception until February 2006, review of reference lists from published reviews, and content expert advice provided potentially eligible studies.

Study Selection:

Eligible studies were randomized trials of overweight children and adolescents assessing the effect of nonsurgical interventions on obesity outcomes.

Data Extraction:

Independently and in duplicate, reviewers assessed the quality of each trial and collected data on interventions and outcomes.

Data Synthesis:

Of 76 eligible trials, 61 had complete data for meta-analysis. Short-term medications were effective, including sibutramine [random-effects pooled estimate of body mass index (BMI) loss of 2.4 kg/m2 with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 1.8-3.1; proportion of between-study inconsistency not due to chance (I2) = 30%] and orlistat (BMI loss = 0.7 kg/m2; CI = 0.3-1.2; I2 = 0%). Trials that measured the effect of physical activity on adiposity (i.e. percent body fat and fat-free mass) found a moderate treatment effect (effect size = −0.52; CI = −0.73 to −0.30; I2 = 0%), whereas trials measuring the effect on BMI found no significant effect (effect size = −0.02; CI = −0.21 to 0.18; I2 = 0%), but reporting bias may explain this finding. Combined lifestyle interventions (24 trials) led to small changes in BMI.


Limited evidence supports the short-term efficacy of medications and lifestyle interventions. The long-term efficacy and safety of pediatric obesity treatments remain unclear.

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