Background: Adolescents that are obese have a greater risk of being obese as an adult. Treatment of adolescent obesity is paramount as it can lead to serious health problems. However most weight loss programs for adolescents are adapted from adult or pediatric programs and lack a peer group component. Unfortunately many adolescent weight loss program participants re-gain weight. Self-esteem and sociability have been related to increased levels of physical activity in adolescents and could aid in weight loss maintenance. Teens are highly influenced by their peers. Therefore, a peer group component in a behavioral weight loss intervention for overweight and obese teens could improve long-term outcomes.
Methods: An exhaustive literature search employing OVID-Medline, EBSCO-Psychological and Behavioral Collections, CINAHL, EBSCO-Biological and Web of Science search engines was conducted using search terms: obesity, peers, peer group, adolescent, therapy, treatment, therapeutics, weight loss, teen and pediatric obesity. Randomized controlled trial (RCT) studies published between 1976 and 2014 and in English with the focus on adolescents 11-18years, male and female, and BMI greater than 85% for age were included. Studies investigating obesity and any illness (eg, diabetes) were excluded.
Results: A total of 158 articles were identified with 15 full-text articles accessed for relevancy and two RCT publications were found. These studies demonstrated that a peer group component improves long-term weight loss outcomes overtime. However, the overall quality of the studies was low to moderate and thus further investigation is warranted in this area to evaluate the impact engaged peer groups would have on long-term weight loss maintenance.
Conclusion: There is some usefulness of an active peer group intervention in the treatment of overweight and obese teens; older adolescents benefit more and long-term connection for the adolescents appears to be an important factor. More focused research and dedication pertaining to peer group enhanced weight loss intervention and its maintenance is necessary.
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