Do Mindfulness Interventions Improve Obesity Rates in Children and Adolescents: A Review of the Evidence

Do Mindfulness Interventions Improve Obesity Rates in Children and Adolescents

Mindfulness interventions have shown promise in improving self-regulation, depression, anxiety, and stress levels across all ages. Obesity rates in children are rising worldwide. It has been postulated that through improvements in self-regulation with mindfulness interventions, obesity rates can be improved in children and adolescents. In this review, we attempt to explain how mindfulness interventions may impact obesity rates and obesity-related complications and give the current state of evidence for the following mindfulness interventions: Mindful Eating, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Yoga, Spirituality, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

Over the last 20 years, childhood obesity has become a major public health concern in the United States. According to the most recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015–2016, 18.5% of American youth between the ages of 2 and 19 were classified as being obese using a body mass index (BMI) threshold >95% for age.1

The rate of obesity increases with age in children. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 have an obesity rate of 13.9% as compared to 20.6% in children between the ages of 12 and 19. In addition, obesity has some ethnic predispositions, with obesity rates being most prevalent among Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Black children with no significant difference between the sexes.1

Obesity begins in childhood due to a combination of genetic, social, physical, and psychological factors.2 As children with obesity age, they often develop obesity-related comorbidities including insulin resistance, early onset diabetes mellitus (DM), hypertension, hyperlipidemia, depression, and sleep apnea.3 These medical conditions often persist into childbearing years and adulthood.4 Pregnancies of women with obesity are more likely to have perinatal complications or be stillborn.5 Infants born to mothers with obesity have increased rates of neuropsychiatric disorders including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, eating disorders,6 and adult obesity.7 This circular pattern perpetuates, increasing obesity rates in all ages.

With the increase in families with obesity, pediatric medical providers are consistently charged with finding evidence-based treatments. One area of interest is the use of mindfulness interventions to modulate eating behaviors.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is a psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment.8 Mindfulness activities have been effective in altering human behavior to improve health promoting behaviors.9–11 In addition, mindfulness activities have consistently shown improvements in levels of stress and anxiety and increased stress has been associated with weight gain.9–12 For these reasons, it seems that mindfulness activities may provide value as a treatment option for patients with obesity.

Human Eating Behavior

To further understand how mindfulness may affect obesity, it seems paramount to understand the psychology of human eating behavior. Human eating behaviors are based on the existence of personal and psychological constraints that operate in addition to food availability. Figure 1 was created by Ulijaszek et al13 based on the initial work of Mela et al,14 and describes a mechanism where human body-weight homeostasis may be maintained or lost based on different factors including food availability, energy density of the diet, genetic, psychological, physiological, behavioral and cultural factors.

Through this theory of the psychological contribution of weight gain, it would be a logical deduction that being more mindful of emotions and how emotions affect eating behaviors would allow one to control what he or she eats. As a consequence, there may be decreased consumption of high calorie foods and increased consumption of healthier, low-calorie foods. With time, this change in food preference may lead to weight control or weight loss and decreased amounts of obesity.

Figure 1. This flow chart explains that when one is exposed to high fat, sweet, or highly processed foods combined with learned feeding behaviors, preferences for these foods may be established. The combination these preferences, Increased availability of unhealthy foods, loss of dietary control from social and cultural eating patterns, and emotional eating or eating environments, predisposes individuals to over-consumption of energy dense foods. This in turn leads to overeating, positive energy balance, and weight gain. Low physical activity and genetic predisposition may negatively impact the picture further.

‘Found’ Review: Centred on emotional cues from teens, this documentary is intelligent, insightful, and compassionate

‘Found’ Review: Centred on emotional cues from teens, this documentary is intelligent, insightful, and compassionate

Assumptions about biological family ties are widespread. Documents at the doctor’s office are asking about family history. The benefactors tend to comment on whether the child is more like one parent or the other. And any ethnic or racial differences between generations within a family can raise questions.

About where one comes from or where one comes from. Adoption films often tackle some or all of these issues. And Amanda Lipitz’s documentary “Found” fits into this landscape. In both the predictable and the unpredictable ways.

In “Found”, Lipitz paints a portrait of the earlier effect of China’s politics on a child:

They have been used for almost 40 years. With several modifications in this country and the United States. After the intertitle tells us that between 1979 and 2015. More than 150,000 children, mostly girls, were adopted from China. The documentary has no official data or analytical perspective.

There is no information here on how many children end up in the United States. And the long-term social impact of policies prioritizing sons over daughters for many families. There is also a shortage of experts for population planning in China, birth rates or economic changes.

Instead, “Discovered” is dedicated to exploring the relationship. Between people and the economic opportunities. That arise from these policies. Which result in children being anonymously left on street corners, stairs. And under trees that their parents don’t care about.

Or they can’t afford the thousands of dollars in government fees to keep it.

Intimacy, not evaluation, is the goal, and “Found” follows three American teenage girls adopted from China. Who are cousins ​​through DNA testing. They live in different parts of the United States, are slightly different ages. To follow different religions, and have different opinions about their birth parents and country of origin.

And Lipitz, who accompanies the girls and their families for several months, makes their countless opinions. And between different relatives in local families who are also looking for their gifted children. Which stand out from each other and sometimes contradict each other – the documentary’s primary focus.

How did it feel to grow up and look different from your parents?

Do your classmates ask how you can be Asian and Jewish at the same time? Watching home videos from your childhood in an orphanage you can’t remember. It is surrounded by women who speak a language you don’t remember? Teenagers Chloe, Sadie and Lily struggle with these issues individually and then find comfort and solidarity.

In months of video chat in which Lipitz shared their personalities. The girls got to know each other and shared their questions, regrets, fears, and curiosities. With the openness and violence of their youth. They chat about their college plans, the boy they like. And how much Chinese culture they want to explore – or have an affinity for.

Lily, who will soon graduate from college and be raised by a single mother.

It is increasingly interested in finding her biological father. She is against her decision to have jaw surgery and wonders if reshaping her jawline in any way. It is a betrayal of her parents’ genetics.

But he was determined to learn Mandarin in addition to Hebrew. Which he already knew from his Jewish family. And Sadie, who, like Lily, is open to seeking out her parents. It admits she has a fragile relationship with her mother’s extensive Irish ancestry. “Technically, they have nothing to do with me” – but also mentions that her friends call her “White Chinese.”

Together, the girls decide to take a trip to the Chinese ancestor with Beijing researcher Liu Hao. “You can find peace in your heart,” Liu says when you know. Where you’re from and see yourself. As a detective connecting the dots of the past. Their interactions with local families sink into an atmosphere of reconciliation and tragedy. When their teenage cousins ​​and parents arrive in China, Liu is the one who leads them to revelation and disappointment.

Depression Symptoms in Teens: Why Today’s Teens Are More Depressed Than Ever

Depression Symptoms in Teens: Why Today’s Teens Are More Depressed Than Ever

After a decline in the 1990s, the number of young people that commit suicide has been increasing every year. While no one can explain exactly why, many experts say adolescents and teens today probably face more pressures at home or school, worry about financial issues for their families, and use more alcohol and drugs. “This is a very dangerous time for our young people,” Kathy Harms, a staff psychologist at Kansas City’s Crittenton Children’s Center, told the Portland Press Herald. “We’re seeing more anxiety and depression in children of all ages.”

Why Are So Many Teens Depressed?

Here are some disturbing statistics about teen depression. According to, teen and adolescent suicides have continued to rise dramatically in recent years. Consider these alarming figures:

  • Every 100 minutes a teen takes their own life.
  • Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.
  • About 20 percent of all teens experience depression before they reach adulthood.
  • Between 10 to 15 percent suffer from symptoms at any one time.
  • Only 30 percent of depressed teens are being treated for it.

Some teens are more at risk for depression and suicide than others. These are known factors:

  • Female teens develop depression twice as often than males.
  • Abused and neglected teens are especially at risk.
  • Adolescents who suffer from chronic illnesses or other physical conditions are at risk.
  • Teens with a family history of depression or mental illness: between 20 to 50 percent of teens suffering from depression have a family member with depression or some other mental disorder.
  • Teens with untreated mental or substance-abuse problems: approximately two-thirds of teens with major depression also battle another mood disorder like dysthymia, anxiety, antisocial behaviors, or substance abuse.
  • Young people who experienced trauma or disruptions at home, including divorce and deaths of parents.

In an article in the Portland Press Herald by Laura Bauer and Mara Rose Williams, experts say teens seem to feel more hopeless than in previous years. Tony Jurich, a professor of family studies and human services at Kansas State University, told the newspaper, “Teens think they are invincible, so when they feel psychological pain, they are more apt to feel overwhelmed by hopelessness and the belief that they have no control over their lives.” Jurich calls these feelings of hopelessness and helplessness “the Molotov cocktail that triggers teen suicide.”

A new study led by Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University psychology professor, finds that five times as many high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues as youth of the same age did that were surveyed back during the era of the Great Depression. Twenge, who is also the author of Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled -and More Miserable Than Ever Before, analyzed the responses of over 77,000 college students surveyed from 1938 through 2007.

Are Teens Today Unprepared for Life’s Challenges?

Some of the experts believe that we have raised our teens to have unrealistic expectations. Along with the messages from modern media sources that suggest that we should always feel good, they say many parents haven’t taught their kids the kind of coping skills they need to survive in chaotic times.

Why are Today’s Teens So Stressed Out?

“In my opinion, it’s all of the above and more,” writes Therese J. Borchard, author of Beyond Blue. “Most experts would agree with me that there is more stress today than in previous generations. Stress triggers depression and mood disorders, so that those who are predisposed to it by their creative wiring or genes are pretty much guaranteed some symptoms of depression at the confusing and difficult time of adolescence. I think modern lifestyles -lack of community and family support, less exercise, no casual and unstructured technology-free play, less sunshine and more computer -factors into the equation.”

ADHD in Young Adults: Avoiding Symptom Collisions in College, First Jobs & Beyond

ADHD in Young Adults: Avoiding Symptom Collisions in College, First Jobs and Beyond

Developmental Milestones in Young Adulthood

Leaving home for college. Organizing a gap year. Applying and interviewing for a first job. Adulting. Young adulthood is one big life event after another, each one needing the following developmental skills and each one impacted by ADHD symptoms like executive dysfunction:

  • Advocating for oneself. College students with ADHD must communicate their needs (a quiet testing area, a class notetaker, etc.) to sometimes reluctant professors. New employees must be able to request performance-enhancing modifications, like frequent progress check-ins or telecommuting options.
  • Juggling academics, work, and social obligations. This is hard for many young adults, who are tempted to hang out with friends rather than study or get to bed early.
  • Taking responsibility for your physical and mental health. Young adults must develop a consistent daily medication routine, exercise regularly, practice self-care, and eat healthy meals and snacks. This requires self-discipline.
  • Making thoughtful decisions. Which college to attend, which career to pursue, and how to nurture (or end) relationships — answering all of these important questions requires listing, considering, and measuring alternatives in a meaningful way.

Young Adults with ADHD: Strategies

  • Using a student note taker
  • Getting a copy of the professor’s notes ahead of class, so they can be reviewed in advance
  • Getting help to identify content, professors, and assignment types that are a good fit for a student
  • Breaking testing into shorter sections
  • Recording lectures to listen to while studying.

It is the norm for college students with ADHD to have academic, organizational, and social challenges. Heavy course loads, a new independence, and a more complex social scene all bring their problems. Many young adults don’t realize how much they have relied on external supports through the years. To build independence, try these strategies:

1. Find the best college fit for your student. This doesn’t mean pursuing the highest-ranked or most prestigious schools. It means researching course offerings, requirements, and available waivers. It also means contacting the disabilities office and discussing accommodations such as:

  • Using a student note taker
  • Getting a copy of the professor’s notes ahead of class, so they can be reviewed in advance
  • Getting help to identify content, professors, and assignment types that are a good fit for a student
  • Breaking testing into shorter sections
  • Recording lectures to listen to while studying.
After the ADHD Diagnosis: Experts Answer Your Top 10 Questions

After the ADHD Diagnosis: Experts Answer Your Top 10 Questions

An ADHD diagnosis often answers some big, life-long questions. Then, it quickly raises new ones: What exactly does this mean? What are our options? Where do we go from here?

ADDitude surveyed its community about the important questions you want, and need, answered after you or your child receives an ADHD diagnosis. We asked experts to provide insights and advice to clear up confusion and illuminate a clear path forward.

1. Who is best suited to treat ADHD, and how do I find a qualified professional?

This is the most common question parents and adults ask. It is a reflection of how few experienced ADHD clinicians there are in the world. A survey done at the Mayo Clinic about eight years ago found that the average parents of children with ADHD consulted 11 clinicians before they found one they thought was well prepared.

For a good outcome, ADHD medication and counseling will both be needed. Medications level the neurological playing field so that the person with ADHD has the same attention span, impulse control, and level of arousal as anyone else. The professionals licensed to prescribe controlled substances vary by state. Physicians and nurse practitioners almost always have this authority. Some states also include physician assistants. But you can’t stop at just medication. The work of helping the whole family learn about ADHD, and helping the person with ADHD deal with the emotional aspect, can be done by psychologists, counselors, coaches, and other professionals.

In short, there is no particular specialty or advanced degree that is intrinsically better able to diagnose and treat ADHD. You are looking for someone who wants to treat ADHD — someone who has been willing to put in thousands of hours of her own time to become skilled at it. How do you find one of these rare clinicians?

  • Start by asking friends, family members, parents of your child’s classmates, and members of nearby CHADD or ADDA support groups who they go to and whether they are happy with the care they are receiving.
  • Speak to your shortlist of recommended clinicians and ask: How long have you been working with patients with ADHD? What percentage of your patients have ADHD? Have you received any training in the diagnosis or treatment of ADHD? What is involved in the diagnosis—written tests/interviews? Your typical treatment plan — behavior modification, medication, alternative therapies? What are the costs involved? Do you accept my insurance?
  • Be willing to travel to get the initial evaluation from an expert in ADHD. Many can put you in touch with a provider closer to home for recommended services.
    — William Dodson, M.D

2. Why wasn’t my ADHD diagnosed earlier?

ADHD is no longer considered a “childhood” diagnosis. Since 2014, more adults have been diagnosed with ADHD than children or adolescents. The average age at diagnosis is now in the early 30s. This evolution is due to a number of reasons.

ADHD drug class leads to fewer side effects in preschool children

ADHD drug class leads to fewer side effects in preschool children

A study comparing two types of ADHD medications in preschool-age children shows alpha-2-adrenergic agonists like guanfacine and clonidine are effective in reducing ADHD symptoms but with a lower rate of side effects.

About 2.4 percent of preschool-age children have an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis. For these children, behavioral interventions intended to redirect a child or otherwise replace negative behavior with positive ones are the first line of treatment. But what if symptoms linger, or are so severe that they interfere with a child’s social, emotional, and educational development?

A study from Boston Children’s Hospital finds that starting drug treatment with alpha-2-adrenergic agonists (A2As), such as guanfacine and clonidine, can be effective in reducing ADHD symptoms in preschool-age children. Just as important, the study shows that these medications have fewer side effects than stimulants, like methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) and amphetamines (Adderall, Vyvanse), which are often the first line of ADHD treatment.

A2As were initially used to regulate blood pressure in adults but then gained FDA approval to treat ADHD in school-aged children after clinical trials found they could improve attention and focus and reduce ADHD symptoms.

Results of this ADHD/A2A study are published in JAMA . It is the first analysis of the effects of both stimulants and A2As in preschool children.

One-third of children already taking A2A medications

A team from the Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics Research Network (DBPNet), which includes Boston Children’s, reviewed the medical records of nearly 500 children seen at seven outpatient developmental-behavioral pediatric practices. Elizabeth Harstad “We found that about 35 percent of preschool-age children with ADHD began drug treatment with A2A medications, even though little is known about their effectiveness and safety in this age group,” says lead author Elizabeth Harstad, MD, MPH , of the Division of Developmental Medicine at Boston Children’s. “Since these kids are already being prescribed these drugs, it was important to study their effectiveness and possible adverse effects.”

The median age of the children in the study was just over 5 years old; 82 percent were male.

A2As nearly as effective as stimulants

Of the 497 children in the study, 309 (62 percent) had first received behavioral therapy before initiating ADHD medication, in line with current ADHD treatment recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Behavioral interventions for ADHD

Behavioral interventions are the first treatments recommended for ADHD in preschool-age children. They can include modifications in the physical and social environment that are designed to change behavior using rewards and nonpunitive consequences.

Examples involve: – maintaining a daily schedule – keeping distractions to a minimum – providing specific and logical places for the child to keep schoolwork, toys, and clothes – setting small, reachable goals – rewarding […]