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Eating habits: Most important factor in childhood obesity

Posted:  Friday, July 24, 2015

Some children tend to gain weight much faster than others. Although many Indian parents may take pride in the fact, excess weight gain can land their children in the vicious net of childhood obesity. So, what is it that causes these selected children to gain weight rapidly? Norwegian researchers think it could be their eating habits. According to their latest study, eating habits may influence weight gain more than the physical activity status of children.

This long-term study, titled Tidlig Trygg i Trondheim (TtiT), was conducted with the aim to evaluate whether physical activity, television time and appetite traits influence the body mass index (BMI) of some children. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. The researchers looked at data from when the children were 4, 6 and 8 years old.

The researchers found that children’s relationship to food was crucial in determining their weight status. They found that BMI increases more in children whose eating behaviour is controlled by simply the sight and smell of food and less by experiencing hunger. Earlier studies have shown that such children may continue eating even after satiety is reached.

The researchers even checked whether the child’s eating habits determine BMI or is it that a high BMI determines eating habits? Well, the researchers found both the possibilities to be true. “Our results show that in relative terms, the BMI of children who are particularly triggered by food increases more when compared with others. But we also found the opposite effect: a high BMI leads to children becoming even more triggered by food over time (at around 6 to 8 years old). As they get older, they are even less able to stop eating when they're full," said the researchers explaining the results.

The researchers have called for further studies to understand the mechanism. Providing a solution, the researchers believe parents have a big role in helping their children regulate food intake. They must not force food upon the children asking them to consume excess. This would help children understand satiety signals themselves. On the other hand, parents should help obese children in regulating their intake, for e.g., providing only one serving at lunch. This would help combat childhood obesity effectively.

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