Mentors Helped Teens Keep Weight off

BALTIMORE, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Pairing college student mentors with urban teens helped the teens adopt healthy habits, U.S. researchers said.

Researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center said the study enrolled 235 primarily African-American children ages 11-16, from low-income, West Baltimore communities with a one-on-one mentorship from college students.

About 38 percent of the children were already overweight. Half of the children were randomly assigned a mentor — a healthy African-American college student or college graduate — who visited one-on-one in the child’s home for 12 sessions. They made food together, went to the store or restaurant to learn about healthy choices, and visited a skating rink or went hiking to learn the importance of being physically active.

The study, published in Pediatrics, found one-on-one mentorship prevented the schoolchildren from becoming overweight for at least two years after mentorship ended. The rate of overweight/obesity in the group declined 5 percent.

“We tried to normalize being healthy and taking care of yourself,” lead author Maureen Black said in a statement. “We wanted to make it normal and cool to be healthy and fit.”

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