How behaviors toward food early in life can lead to obesity

October 28th, 2010 - 5:19 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Oct 28 (ANI): A new study has shed light on understanding how behaviors toward food early in life can lead to obesity.

When it comes to understanding where tendencies to overweight and obesity develop, you have to begin with the very young, says John Spence, a behavioural scientist in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta.

His research, the first of its kind to look at North American kids, examined four- and five year olds’ avoidance or approach behaviours to food and their relationship with body weight.

What he’s found may help to unlock the causes of obesity and what we can do to prevent a condition in Canada where, alarmingly, 26 per cent of 2 to 17 year olds are overweight or obese.

Spence and his team recruited 1730 Canadian children into the study - an equal mix of boys and girls, and four and five year-olds - via immunization clinics from 2005 to 2007 when they came for their pre-school vaccinations.

Kids were classified according to body weight status and parents asked to complete the UK-developed Children’s Eating Behaviour Questionnaire (CEBQ), which has been used in European studies to establish the relationship between food behaviours and body weight in children.

Parents were given a list of statements relating to how their child responded to food, for example, “My child loves food,” or “My child eats more when worried” and asked if or to what extent the behaviour occurred.

The results of the two-year study were in line with what Spence had anticipated. He found significant differences between the children in different weight status groups for food responsiveness, emotional over-eating, enjoyment of food, satiety responsiveness, slowness in eating, and food fussiness.

“It does appear that children, not surprisingly, who are demonstrating approach behaviours to food (eating when upset, or eating when bored, for example) are going to be more overweight whereas children who are demonstrating avoidance behaviours (such as fussy or slow eating) are more likely to be underweight. But the issue now is: how do children develop these approach or avoidance tendencies to food?” says Spence.

“This model suggests that to some extent this is influenced by the household environment where the parents may be rewarding children for certain types of behaviours. It would suggest that there is some dynamic in the household that is leading children to be more approach or avoidant in relation to food.”

The study has been published in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity. (ANI)

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