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Teens burn dramatically less calories

AAP logoAAP 8/09/2016

Putting on weight as a teenager is largely due to a dramatic drop in calories boys and girls burn off, according to a UK study.

Scientists say teenagers burn up to 500 fewer calories a day during puberty than younger children, which could help explain why obesity is increasing.

The 12-year study unexpectedly found that when children reach puberty, girls and boys experience a rapid drop in the number of calories they burn, at a time when the number would be expected to rise with the growth spurt.

The research by Professor Terry Wilkin, of the University of Exeter, found that 15-year-olds use 400 to 500 fewer calories while at rest per day than when they were 10 - a fall of around a quarter.

By the age of 16, calorie expenditure begins to climb again.

For comparison, a McDonald's Big Mac burger contains 508 calories and it would take an hour of Zumba to burn 500 calories through exercise.

The study also found that teenagers exercise less during puberty, adding to the calorie excess that underlies obesity.

This drop is particularly stark in girls, whose activity level drops by around a third between the ages of seven and 16.

The findings, which come after the Britsh Government launched a strategy last month to tackle the dramatic rise in childhood obesity, may help explain why many youngsters become overweight in puberty.

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