Clinical review: treatment of pediatric obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Dec;93(12):4600-5. doi: 10.1210/jc.2006-2409. Epub 2008 Sep 9.


Context: The efficacy of treatments for pediatric obesity remains unclear.

Objective: 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/m(2) with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 1.8-3.1; proportion of between-study inconsistency not due to chance (I(2)) = 30%] and orlistat (BMI loss = 0.7 kg/m(2); CI = 0.3-1.2; I(2) = 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; I(2) = 0%), whereas trials measuring the effect on BMI found no significant effect (effect size = -0.02; CI = -0.21 to 0.18; I(2) = 0%), but reporting bias may explain this finding. Combined lifestyle interventions (24 trials) led to small changes in BMI.

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

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Obesity Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Data Collection
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Motor Activity
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / standards
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data


  • Anti-Obesity Agents