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Forced Eating as a Child Could Lead to Future Over-Eating

By Daniel H. Rasolt

Posted: Sunday, March 08, 2009

(Defeat Diabetes® News) -- A common parental action is the encouragement, or even requirement, that their children finish all the food given to them at a meal. A recent Cornell University study has shown that this behaviour, while often well-intentioned, appears to hinder the development of the child's appetite control, which leads to over-eating outside the home.
The procedure for the study was very simple. 63 mothers of young children were asked about their children's eating habits and policy of "cleaning their plates" at meals. These children were then asked, outside of home (at day care), how many fruit loops they would like. The bowls filled with the cereal were weighed, and a clear trend was observed that "clean plate" children requested more fruit loops. This trend was particularly strong in male children. Says lead author Dr. Brian Wansink, "We found that the more controlling the parents were about telling their child to clean their plate, the more likely the kids, especially the boys, were to request larger portions of sweetened cereal at daycare."
While this was a short term study, the implications are fairly profound. Many cultures, in addition to individually minded households, stress the importance of not wasting food. The famous "finish your vegetables" line is of course well-intentioned, but the speculation is that this attitude might interfere with a child's ability to control their portions and appetites. If this over-eating were to persist later in life (further long-term studies are needed), these individuals would see themselves at significantly increased risk for serious conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. "Preschool-age children are at a vulnerable age, and are forming eating habits that will follow them throughout their life," stresses Dr. Wansink.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Wansink, Brian. Cole Noble, Jennifer. Cornell University news release. March 2009.

Daniel H. Rasolt writes for Defeat Diabetes® News. Read more of his original content articles.

Copyright © 2009 Defeat Diabetes Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.

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