UB Enrolling Families in Free Weight Loss Program

traffic light diet.

The Buffalo Childhood Weight Control Program uses the renowned Traffic Light Diet developed at UB.

Published March 20, 2012

UB is enrolling Western New York Families in a free, highly successful weight loss program that was developed at the university.

The program is one of only a few in the nation proven to achieve long-term weight loss in children.

Simultaneously Treats Overweight Kids and Parents

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“Our program is not a quick fix. It’s a proven, family-based lifestyle intervention. We provide our families with tools for a lifetime of good health, and we teach them how to change their lifestyles. ”
Leonard H. Epstein, PhD
SUNY Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics

The Buffalo Childhood Weight Control Program is designed to boost physical activity and healthy eating among both overweight children and parents using its renowned Traffic Light Diet, developed by Leonard H. Epstein, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics.

To be eligible, children must be overweight and between 8 and 12 years old, considered the best ages to intervene in creating healthy eating habits. They also must have at least one overweight parent.

Families accepted into the program must attend weekly appointments for the first 12 weeks, then biweekly and monthly appointments.

“Because we simultaneously treat obese parents and children, the benefits extend to the rest of the family,” says Epstein. “The biggest challenge to obesity treatment is not weight loss but long-term weight maintenance—and that’s a key success of our program.”

Children Able to Maintain Healthy Weight for 10 Years

Since its inception, the Buffalo Childhood Weight Control Program has received more than $20 million in research funding from the National Institutes of Health.

UB researchers have found that 50 percent of overweight children in the program were able to maintain a healthy weight at 10-year follow-up—far higher than the usual percentage, which is typically 10 percent or less.

For children in a weight-loss program, the key indicator is the “percent overweight,” which means how much more the child weighs than what is considered average for his or her height. If, for example, a child should weigh 100 pounds and he actually weigh 150 pounds, he is considered 50 percent overweight.

Children in the UB program see an average percent overweight decrease of 22.6 percent after treatment, with the most successful showing an average decrease of 27.6 percent. Adults see an average weight loss of 22.9 pounds following treatment.

“Our program is not a quick fix,” Epstein says. “It’s a proven, family-based lifestyle intervention. We provide our families with tools for a lifetime of good health, and we teach them how to change their lifestyles.”

1 in 3 American Youths Overweight or Obese

Nearly 1 in 3 children in the U.S. is overweight or obese, a number that has doubled in the last 20 years and continues to increase.

At the same time, nearly 2 out of 3 American adults are overweight and 1 of 3 is obese.

“Engaging in behaviors that encourage healthy eating and more physical activity is a tougher challenge than it used to be,” says Epstein, noting that families have more unhealthy eating options than just 20 years ago.

“There are many more high-calorie foods available,” he says. “Portion sizes in restaurants are larger, and children have more opportunities to be sedentary than they used to have.”

Evidence-Based Approach Key to Program’s Success

Despite these challenges, the Buffalo Childhood Weight Control Program has shown consistent success because it is one of a few in the country that is evidence-based—using the best available evidence from peer-reviewed scientific data.

These findings, generated by prominent obesity researchers at UB and elsewhere, have long shown that treatment programs that involve both parent and child are the single most effective way to achieve healthy weight in children.

For information

To learn more about enrolling in the Buffalo Childhood Weight Control Program, call 716-829-6697 or email ub-healthykids@buffalo.edu.