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Do Children Burn Calories at a Different Rate to Adults?

By: Joanne Walker BA (hons) - Updated: 28 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Calorie Counting Children Adults Burn


Can you tell me if children burn calories at a different rate to adults? I currently use the nutri-strategy values to find out approximate calorie burns for adults but I'm not sure the values would be appropriate for kids.

I hope you can help.

(R.H, 25 March 2009)


There is evidence to suggest that children do burn calories more quickly than adults. Furthermore, recent studies which have been carried out point towards children burning actual fat more quickly than adults. This is important to note because it shows how children actually need relatively little added fat in their diet, as it is burnt off when they do consume it. Several eminent institutions in the USA and the UK have conducted studies into the rate of calorie burn for children - and it does seem as though their smaller bodies do burn them off quicker.

Children also need far fewer calories than adults to start with. Until a child is fully grown, their calories intake can be as low as 1,400 calories, although their age and height and level of activity will obviously change this as well. But it is wise not to start calorie counting with youngsters as it is better to just provide them with a healthy diet and let them develop naturally. Plus the fact, if you start calorie counting with them at a young age, it is likely that they could develop a less than healthy obsession with doing so themselves later in life which could lead to problems.

Any child which leads a normal active life and is given healthy food should not have to be the subject of calorie counting. Of course, if the child is overweight and weight loss is the target this is a slightly different matter.

But the main thing to remember when considering the calorie needs in children is that they can seem to burn calories more quickly than adults, simply because they indulge in those things which children should indulge in - that is, running around, being energetic and boisterous and having fun. Because of the fact that they do these things - play football at lunchtime, run around in the playground at break, have energetic playdates with friends after school, they burn off calories more quickly than adults sitting at a desk all day.

This is just another reason why children should be encouraged to be active and behave like children, instead of plonking themselves down in front of a TV or computer all day.

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