The transition from early-life ‘risk’ to childhood obesity operates largely through the emergence of maladaptive eating behaviours that remain stable and predict greater energy intake (Carnell and Wardle 2008).
We examined associations between eating behaviours, energy intake and body composition at two timepoints (4.5-6 years) among children from the Growing Up in Singapore towards Healthy Outcomes (GUSTO) cohort. Our findings demonstrate that when children select larger portions, eat faster and continue to eat when sated, they consumed more energy than children who do not exhibit such behaviours. These behaviours were found to be stable over time, and individually and collectively contributed to higher adiposity and BMIz scores.
Through the child eating behaviour questionnaire (CEBQ) we observed that parents were aware of their child’s appetitive traits, with faster eating and greater intakes associated with traits like higher food responsiveness. Importantly, within-meal parental restrictions and prompts were linked to eating rate, energy intake and higher BMIz scores in some children, suggesting a bi-directional relationship between feeding practices and child eating behaviours.
These findings emphasize the need to consider the cumulative impact portion-selection, eating rate and parental feeding practices have on energy intake when developing interventions to target children at risk of developing overweight or obesity.