The effect of information placebo on physical activity in overweight and obese children

Shira Fanti-Oren, Daphna Birenbaum-Carmeli, Alon Eliakim, Michal Pantanowitz, Dana Schujovitzky, Dan Nemet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-124
Number of pages5
JournalPediatric Exercise Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 6 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Human Kinetics, Inc.


  • Actigraphy
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Overweight
  • Pediatric Obesity


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