Interventions for the prevention of overweight and obesity in preschool children: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials


Lorenzo Monasta, Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit, Institute for Maternal and Child Health IRCCS Burlo Garofolo, Via dell'Istria 65/1, 34137 Trieste, Italy. E-mail:


The objective of this study was to analyse interventions for the prevention of overweight and obesity in children under 5 years of age. We carried out a systematic review focusing exclusively on randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Data sources include Medline, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, CINHAL, PsychInfo and Web of Science. Data were extracted from seventeen articles describing seven RCTs identified through electronic search, screening of references in systematic reviews, own files and contact with authors. RCTs were assessed with the Jadad scale. Four trials were carried out in preschool settings, one with an exclusive educational component, two with an exclusive physical activity component and one with both. Two trials were family-based, with education and counselling for parents and children. The remaining trial was carried out in maternity hospitals, with a training intervention on breastfeeding. None of the interventions had an effect in preventing overweight and obesity. The failure to show an effect may be due to the choice of outcomes, the quality of the RCTs, the suboptimal implementation of the interventions, the lack of focus on social and environmental determinants. More rigorous research is needed on interventions and on social and environmental factors that could impact on lifestyle.