Diet, physical activity and behavioural interventions for the treatment of overweight or obese adolescents aged 12 to 17 years

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Jun 22;6(6):CD012691. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD012691.


Background: Adolescent overweight and obesity has increased globally, and can be associated with short- and long-term health consequences. Modifying known dietary and behavioural risk factors through behaviour changing interventions (BCI) may help to reduce childhood overweight and obesity. This is an update of a review published in 2009.

Objectives: To assess the effects of diet, physical activity and behavioural interventions for the treatment of overweight or obese adolescents aged 12 to 17 years.

Search methods: We performed a systematic literature search in: CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, LILACS, and the trial registers and ICTRP Search Portal. We checked references of identified studies and systematic reviews. There were no language restrictions. The date of the last search was July 2016 for all databases.

Selection criteria: We selected randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of diet, physical activity and behavioural interventions for treating overweight or obesity in adolescents aged 12 to 17 years.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently assessed risk of bias, evaluated the overall quality of the evidence using the GRADE instrument and extracted data following the guidelines of the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. We contacted trial authors for additional information.

Main results: We included 44 completed RCTs (4781 participants) and 50 ongoing studies. The number of participants in each trial varied (10 to 521) as did the length of follow-up (6 to 24 months). Participants ages ranged from 12 to 17.5 years in all trials that reported mean age at baseline. Most of the trials used a multidisciplinary intervention with a combination of diet, physical activity and behavioural components. The content and duration of the intervention, its delivery and the comparators varied across trials. The studies contributing most information to outcomes of weight and body mass index (BMI) were from studies at a low risk of bias, but studies with a high risk of bias provided data on adverse events and quality of life.The mean difference (MD) of the change in BMI at the longest follow-up period in favour of BCI was -1.18 kg/m2 (95% confidence interval (CI) -1.67 to -0.69); 2774 participants; 28 trials; low quality evidence. BCI lowered the change in BMI z score by -0.13 units (95% CI -0.21 to -0.05); 2399 participants; 20 trials; low quality evidence. BCI lowered body weight by -3.67 kg (95% CI -5.21 to -2.13); 1993 participants; 20 trials; moderate quality evidence. The effect on weight measures persisted in trials with 18 to 24 months' follow-up for both BMI (MD -1.49 kg/m2 (95% CI -2.56 to -0.41); 760 participants; 6 trials and BMI z score MD -0.34 (95% CI -0.66 to -0.02); 602 participants; 5 trials).There were subgroup differences showing larger effects for both BMI and BMI z score in studies comparing interventions with no intervention/wait list control or usual care, compared with those testing concomitant interventions delivered to both the intervention and control group. There were no subgroup differences between interventions with and without parental involvement or by intervention type or setting (health care, community, school) or mode of delivery (individual versus group).The rate of adverse events in intervention and control groups was unclear with only five trials reporting harms, and of these, details were provided in only one (low quality evidence). None of the included studies reported on all-cause mortality, morbidity or socioeconomic effects.BCIs at the longest follow-up moderately improved adolescent's health-related quality of life (standardised mean difference 0.44 ((95% CI 0.09 to 0.79); P = 0.01; 972 participants; 7 trials; 8 comparisons; low quality of evidence) but not self-esteem.Trials were inconsistent in how they measured dietary intake, dietary behaviours, physical activity and behaviour.

Authors' conclusions: We found low quality evidence that multidisciplinary interventions involving a combination of diet, physical activity and behavioural components reduce measures of BMI and moderate quality evidence that they reduce weight in overweight or obese adolescents, mainly when compared with no treatment or waiting list controls. Inconsistent results, risk of bias or indirectness of outcome measures used mean that the evidence should be interpreted with caution. We have identified a large number of ongoing trials (50) which we will include in future updates of this review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Exercise*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Overweight / therapy*
  • Pediatric Obesity / therapy*
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic