July 14, 2016 7:57:23 pm
The hungrier parents are at mealtimes, the more they may feed their young children, according to a new study which could have implications for childhood obesity.
In a study of 29 children aged three to six and their mothers, researchers asked the mothers to rate their hunger as well as their child’s hunger prior to a meal.
Among women who were overweight or obese, those who rated their own hunger higher also perceived their child’s hunger as higher, and in turn, served their child larger portions of food.
“Because young children have difficulty recognising when they are full, the more food they are presented at mealtime, the more they are likely to eat,” said Sarah Stromberg, a doctoral student at University of Florida.
The study was designed to determine what factors might impact how much food parents are serving their young children.
“If we can start to identify those factors we might be able intervene to help parents develop more appropriate portion sizes for younger kids, which hopefully can lead to a longer life of healthy eating habits,” said David Janicke, a professor at UF.
Researchers said that because of the small sample size, their study findings are preliminary.
Future research should be conducted with a larger group of participants and should track the calories consumed by children throughout the day, not just at one meal.
In addition, researchers should observe parents and children in a home environment eating the foods they normally serve, rather than the free, buffet-style meal offered by the researchers.
“I think this study was a good starting point and ultimately if we’re able to see these findings replicated we can intervene with knowledge, awareness and strategies to help parents and kids work together to limit how much kids are being served,” Janicke said.
For the study, mother-child pairs were asked to participate in a study of their interactions during play time and a lunch or dinner meal.
After 10 minutes of a play activity at a lab, mothers were asked to complete a questionnaire that collected demographic information and asked the mother to rate her own hunger and her child’s hunger on a seven-point scale, where 1 was not hungry at all and 7 was extremely hungry. Researchers also collected participants’ height and weight.
Next, researchers brought in a selection of food and drinks and asked the mother to serve her child and herself.
Throughout the meal, trained coders observed participants through a one-way mirror and recorded the amount of food served and consumed.
Researchers found that for mothers who were heavier, higher ratings of their personal hunger were related to rating their child’s hunger as higher.
Those mothers also tended to dish out more food to their children than mothers who were in a healthy weight range.
The findings were published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.
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