2010 Grant Award - Toben F. Nelson, Sc.D.

A Pilot Study to Explore Energy Expenditure and Energy Intake among Youth Sport Participants

Toben F. Nelson, Sc.D.
Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota

Participation in youth sport is recommended for increasing physical activity, but little research exists on whether sport can promote energy balance or prevent obesity. We reviewed existing research comparing youth sport participants with non-participants on weight status, physical activity, and dietary habits and found few well-designed studies. The available research suggests that youth sport may not effectively prevent obesity. Many youth sport participants are overweight, the proportion of sport participants who are overweight has risen over time, and the evidence on whether sport participants are less likely to be overweight is mixed. The research demonstrates that sport participants are more likely to be physically active than those who do not participate. However, available evidence suggests that sport participants consume more sugar-sweetened beverages, fast food, and overall calories than non-participants, leaving them at risk for excess body weight. We conducted a simulation of energy balance in youth sport using expenditure estimates based on the Compendium of Energy Expenditures for Youth (Ridley et al., 2008) and intake estimated from snacks and beverages commonly consumed by youth sport participants, and found that youth may actually consume more calories than they expend while participating in youth sport (Nelson et al., in review). In addition, many children may spend considerable time during youth sport on the sidelines while other children play so that actual energy expenditure in sport may be lower than expected, but this has not been objectively assessed. In this context of little empirical evidence we propose to conduct a pilot study to objectively assess physical activity and track dietary intake among youth participating in organized sport programs in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan area. The primary aim of the study is to assess within-subject differences in energy expenditure and energy intake on days when youth participate in organized sport activities and days they do not. The evidence collected from this pilot research will be combined with other preliminary studies conducted by the Investigators to directly inform a grant proposal to conduct an in-depth longitudinal study of the factors that may inhibit or promote excessive weight gain in youth sport settings. Ultimately, the information gathered from this program of research will be used to direct interventions that reshape youth sport programs to be consistent with obesity prevention goals.