The Effect of Information Placebo on Physical Activity in Overweight and Obese Children

in Pediatric Exercise Science
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  • 1 University of Haifa
  • | 2 Meir Medical Center
  • | 3 Wingate Institute
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Purpose: To assess the effect of 1 week of consuming a placebo “energy drink” compared with a week of drinking regular water on daily physical activity in obese children participating in a weight reduction multidisciplinary program. Methods: Seventeen prepubertal (age = 128.7 [26.6] m) overweight and obese children (7 females and 10 males) participated in the study. Participants received 7 bottles of mineral water per week for 2 weeks. Different types of information were randomly provided regarding the drink consumed in each week: standard (water) versus deliberate positive information (presumed energy drink and placebo). Daily step count was measured using pedometers and compared using paired t test. Results: After consuming the placebo drink, children demonstrated a significantly higher average daily step number (10,452 [4107]) compared with the days they drank water (8168 [2928], P < .005). This difference was attributed mainly to male participants. Conclusion: The use of placebo in the form of deliberate positive information was associated with a significant increase in real-life physical activity in overweight and obese children, especially in boys. Positive information may be used to encourage children with obesity to enhance daily physical activity and energy expenditure.

Fanti-Oren and Birenbaum-Carmeli are with the Cheryl Spencer Department of Nursing, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel. Eliakim, Pantanowitz, Schujovitzky, and Nemet are with the Child Health and Sport Center, Pediatric Department, Meir Medical Center, Kfar-Saba, Israel. Pantanowitz is also with the Zinman College of Physical Education and Sports Sciences, Wingate Institute, Netanya, Israel.

Nemet (dan.nemet@clalit.org.il, dnemet@gmail.com) is corresponding author.
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