An infant’s hearty appetite may appear as a healthy sign, but could signal a predisposition to obesity, scientists have warned. A new research has found that infants with a heartier appetite grew more rapidly up to age 15 months, potentially putting them at increased risk for obesity.
The research linked appetite to more rapid infant growth and to genetic predisposition to obesity. The research investigated how weight gain is linked to two key aspects of appetite, namely lower satiety responsiveness (a reduced urge to eat in response to internal ‘fullness’ signals) and higher food responsiveness (an increased urge to eat in response to the sight or smell of nice food).
The authors used data from non-identical, same-sex twins born in the UK in 2007. Twin pairs were selected that differed in measures of satiety responsiveness (SR) and food responsiveness (FR) at 3 months, and their growth up to age 15 months was compared. Within pairs, the infant who was more food responsive or less satiety responsive grew faster than their co-twin.
The more food responsive twin was 654g heavier than their co-twin at six months and 991g heavier at 15 months. The less satiety responsive twin was 637g heavier than their co-twin at six months and 918g heavier at 15 months. “Obesity is a major issue in child health,” said Professor Jane Wardle, lead author of the study from the University College London (UCL) Health Behaviour Research Centre.
“Identifying factors that promote or protect against weight gain could help identify targets for obesity intervention and prevention in future. These findings are extremely powerful because we were comparing children of the same age and same sex growing up in the same family in order to reveal the role that appetite plays in infant growth.
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“It might make life easy to have a baby with a hearty appetite, but as she grows up, parents may need to be alert
for tendencies to be somewhat over-responsive to food cues in the environment, or somewhat unresponsive to fullness. This behaviour could put her at risk of gaining weight faster than is good for her,” Wardle said. The research was published in journal JAMA Pediatrics.