Young children who crave sweet treats rather than salty snacks are at higher risk to experience weight gain, according to a new study.
Research results published in the journal Pediatrics pointed to the fact that some people may be hard-wired to prefer sugary foods, which, in turn, puts them at heightened risk of obesity.
Ashley Welch of CBS News writes that the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital asked more than 200 low-income mothers to allow their children to fast for an hour before providing their kids with an ample lunch.
Then, after the toddlers were satiated, they were given a tray of snacks containing sweets like cookies and salty snacks like potato chips. The youngsters were told to eat as much of the food on the platter as they wanted.
The researchers discovered that the kids who ate more and were more inclined to choose sweet snacks over salty were at a higher risk for increases in their body fat levels by the time they reached the age of three.
Dr. Julie C. Lumeng, the lead author of the study and developmental and behavioral pediatrician at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, stated that the findings suggest that there are some people who may have a genetic predisposition to having a sweet tooth. This gene can result in the likelihood of gaining unhealthy weight.
"There's been a literature out there for the past 10 or 20 years that there's variability between kids, at least at school age, in how interested they are in eating dessert after they already have a filling meal," she told CBS News. "There have been some studies that show there are genetics underlying that. But no one ever looked at it in kids this young."
Unfortunately, inexpensive, prepackaged, tasty, and energy-dense food is everywhere in our world. The job of keeping young ones away from these calorie-ridden foods is next to impossible.
Health Day's Robert Preidt reports that Pamela Reichert-Anderson of Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY explained that there are ways for parents to curb overeating by a child who begs for sweets.
She begins by saying that putting sweets off-limits will probably not work. Restriction of sugary foods only makes these sweets more appealing to children. Rather, she says, parents should teach their children to be "mindful" when they eat the special treats.
"Teaching your children how to eat these foods, by taking their time to eat and enjoy the taste, as well as consuming these foods in moderation, will help develop healthy eating habits," she explained.
Dr. Ron Marino, the associate chair of pediatrics at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, NY, said there can sometimes be a psychological issue that influences child eating behaviors.
When children and adults have unmet emotional needs, many times they turn to food to fill those needs. Marino is curious about the emotional and psycho-social state of the participants in this study.
Reichert-Anderson noted that if healthy foods are stocked in a home, including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, that is what the family will eat. She also suggested that food presented in a child-friendly manner will be more likely to eaten. Parents, she continued, need to be role models and teachers if they want their children to eat well.