Date: October 21, 2014
Source: Queensland University of Technology
Summary: Even though they are not hungry, children as young
as three will find high-energy treats too tempting to refuse, new
research has confirmed. In a study of three and four year olds,
100 per cent of children opted for a sweet or savory snack despite
eating a filling healthy lunch only 15 minutes prior.
Even though they are not hungry, children as young as three
will find high-energy treats too tempting to refuse, new QUT
research has found.
In a study of three and four year olds, 100 per cent of
children opted for a sweet or savory snack despite eating a
filling healthy lunch only 15 minutes prior.
Nutrition researcher Holly Harris, from QUT's Institute of
Health and Biomedical Innovation, said the results highlighted the
health risks for children frequently confronted with an abundance
of energy-dense, high-calorie foods.
Ms Harris's study, published in the journal Eating Behaviors,
looked at young children's eating habits in the absence of being
hungry and how parental feeding control impacted those behaviours
in both girls and boys.
"Of the 37 children who took part in the study, all
children displayed eating in the absence of hunger, even though
more than 80 per cent reported being full or very full just 15
minutes earlier," Ms Harris said.
"An impaired ability to respond to signs of feeling full
and being unable to self-control food intake in an environment
where children are frequently faced with high-energy foods is
likely to have undesirable ramifications on a child's energy
balance and weight status."
Ms Harris said pressure by mothers to eat was also positively
linked to higher levels of snack food intake in the absence of
being hungry, but this was a result found only with boys.
"Mothers who reported that they typically pressured their
boys to eat during meal times, had boys who also ate more snacks
when they were no longer hungry," she said.
"This adds weight to the argument that boys' and girls'
eating behaviours may be influenced or expressed in different
"For example, in boys it may be that controlled feeding
practices such as encouraging boys to finish everything on their
plate may compromise their ability to determine their own hunger.
"Therefore they may be more likely to eat and overeat in
the presences of highly palatable snacks.
"So forcing boys to eat their breakfast, lunch of dinner may
impact their ability to self-regulate their snack food intake as
She said when mothers pressured their girls to eat it did not
have the same impact on their child's snack consumption.
Ms Harris said people were born with a capacity to
self-regulate their food intake.
"Infants will not consume energy in excess of what their
body requires. Internal hunger and satiety signals are relayed to
the brain and tell infants when to stop and start eating,"
"But as we grow older, we become increasingly aware of the
abundance and rewarding value of food and in turn our ability to
respond appropriately to our appetite may diminish.
"In a society which constantly promotes over-consumption
from convenient, energy-dense foods a susceptibility to respond to
environmental food cues over appetite cues may lead to an
imbalance in energy and food intake and undesirable weight gain.
"Preserving this ability to self-regulate energy intake
early in life may be the key to resisting environmental stimuli to
eat, later in life."
The above story is based on materials provided by Queensland
University of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for
content and length.
1. Holly Harris, Kimberley M. Mallan, Smita Nambiar, Lynne A.
Daniels. The relationship between controlling feeding practices
and boys' and girls' eating in the absence of hunger. Eating
Behaviors, 2014; 15 (4): 519 DOI: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2014.07.003