- Connect & Explore: Childhood Obesity Declines and Disparities—A Complicated Relationship
- Prudent ways to fight childhood obesity
PUBLICATIONS & TOOLS
- NCCOR members explore metrics to express children's energy expenditure
- Effect of the Healthy Schools Program on prevalence of overweight and obesity
- How supermarkets are increasing their lower-calorie product offerings
CHILDHOOD OBESITY RESEARCH & NEWS
- Parents’ denial fuels childhood obesity epidemic
- If current trends hold, childhood obesity will hit 70 million by 2025
- Overweight infants still risk obesity even if breastfed
- Health improves when teens exercise like young kids
- Research: Feed children greens early in life
Connect & Explore: Childhood Obesity Declines and Disparities—A Complicated Relationship
June 29, 2015, NCCOR
NCCOR’s Connect & Explore Webinar takes a closer look at childhood obesity declines, disparities, and opportunities to reconsider the design and impact of policies and intervention
While most of the United States continues to see increasing or steady childhood obesity rates, some areas are seeing modest though important declines. Yet these declines have not been uniform across all groups. Declines are often smaller among groups at the greatest risk, including black and Latino youth and those in low-income communities. The differences in declines among groups can lead to increased racial and ethnic disparities in these communities.
Examining the interplay between disparities and declines requires a look toward environmental factors that can have larger effects on disadvantaged and minority children. “Several aspects of the environment, including access, information, and economics contribute to disparities in childhood obesity,” said Shiriki Kumanyika, emeritus professor of epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and president of the American Public Health Association (APHA). Also as director of the African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (AACORN), Kumanyika is leading research efforts to better document, understand, and reduce these inequities and identify potential solutions.
Interventions are often designed to target segments of disadvantaged populations, but there is an opportunity to reconsider strategies that approach communities—and disadvantage—in a broader way. “Population-based approaches can increase or decrease disparities while narrowly targeted interventions can have little impact the population overall,” said Tim Lobstein, director of policy, World Obesity Federation. “We need to explore approaches that benefit everybody while providing the greatest benefit to those who need it most.”
Connect & Explore gives you the chance to hear from internationally renowned researchers on this pressing issue. Learn why disparities persist despite declines in some communities and discuss how the design and impact of interventions can lead to more equitable opportunities for healthy choices and environments.
Join us at 2 pm, Eastern, on Tuesday, July 14, for the one-hour event. Speakers include:
- Shiriki Kumanyika, Emeritus Professor, Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine; and President, APHA
- Tim Lobstein, Director of Policy, World Obesity Federation
You must register to receive webinar access. The event is free but attendance is limited, so tell a friend and register today!
Please consider sharing this information on your social networks using the hashtag #ConnectExplore. We will also be live tweeting the event so be sure to follow the conversation at @NCCOR. For those who cannot attend, the webinar will be recorded and archived on www.nccor.org.
Prudent ways to fight childhood obesity
June 22, 2015, The New York Times Well Blog
By Jane E. Brody
Pardon the cliché, but it happens to be particularly apt in this case: In trying to tame the nation’s obesity epidemic, an ounce of prevention is decidedly worth a pound of cure—considerably more than a pound, in fact, according to the findings of a five-year collaborative research project.
Not only can several popular strategies help children achieve and maintain a normal weight and, in the future, reduce adult obesity, they can also save the country many health care dollars and, in a few cases, generate revenue to support further weight control efforts.
The time is long overdue for legislators, schools, policy wonks, and parents to deal more effectively with what is clearly one of the nation’s most costly health care problems.
In the meantime, parents and other adults who influence young lives can adopt the techniques found most likely to keep children lean and healthy and extend those benefits well into their adult years. For families as well as institutions, the dollar and health savings can be significant.
The project, initial results of which were published recently by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, is called the Childhood Obesity Cost-Effectiveness Study, or CHOICES. It examined in exhaustive detail the costs and benefits of four possible approaches to curbing childhood obesity: placing an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages; ending the tax write-off for advertising on children’s television; increasing moderate to vigorous physical activity in schools; and fostering healthier habits (more physical activity, better nutrition, and less screen time) in preschool settings.
As you might expect, these approaches vary both in their implementation costs and effects on children’s weight, but before this analysis, there was no clear guidance as to which gave the biggest bang for the buck. The research team of experts, from the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Washington School of Medicine, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Deakin University in Melbourne, and the University of Queensland, modeled the preventive interventions as if applied nationwide to children in 2015. Their resulting estimates of expected benefits to children’s weight (and subsequent health) and the cost of implementation were based on scores of controlled studies in a wide variety of settings.
While each approach can have a positive effect, two stood out as most likely to lower children’s body mass index, also called BMI, for the least cost and greatest returns on the investment: an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and eliminating the tax subsidy on TV advertising to children.
For each unit of BMI lowered per person during the first two years, the TV ad change would cost $1.16 per person, but would also generate about $80 million a year and save $343 million in health care costs for the United States as a whole over the course of a decade. Instituting a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks would cost $3.16 per BMI unit lowered, but save an estimated $23.2 billion over 10 years and bring in $12.5 billion a year nationally.
American children and adults consume “twice as many calories from sugar-sweetened beverages compared to 30 years ago,” noted co-author Dr. Michael W. Long of Harvard, adding that these drinks have been linked to excess weight gain, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
To be sure, progress has already been made in limiting children’s access to sugary drinks. Many schools have banned such beverages, and a number of large restaurant chains have removed them from children’s menus, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Dairy Queen, Panera, Subway, and Chipotle, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit health advocacy group based in Washington.
Last month, Davis, Calif., passed an ordinance making only milk and water, not soda, the default choices for children’s meals offered in restaurants (although parents can request soda if desired). Slowly, but surely, sugary drinks may go the way of cigarettes—banned in most public places.
It is also true that the rate of obesity among young children has recently stabilized. But Steven L. Gortmaker of Harvard, and the project’s leader, said, “the rate has peaked at historically high levels and only for children aged 2 to 5. It’s still increasing for older children.”
The best time to intervene, he emphasized, is when children are young and small changes—“an energy gap of only about 30 calories a day”—can have a major effect. Lowering an adult’s BMI is far more challenging, requiring a sustained deficit of about 500 calories a day, “but preventing childhood obesity lays the groundwork for a future reduction in adult obesity,” Dr. Gortmaker said.
“Targeting just a few things in children’s lives—fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, less screen time, and more physical activity—can have significant results,” he said.
Less screen time can affect BMI in two ways: Children will be exposed to fewer ads for snacks and other foods high in calories and low in nutrients, which many studies have shown increases their consumption of such foods. Children who spend less time with electronics would also have more time for physical activity.
However, far more costly would be increasing time spent on moderate to vigorous physical activity in schools; “BMI could be reduced after two years at a cost of $401 per BMI unit per person,” the research indicated. Increasing physical activity in schools is expensive primarily because better-trained instructors and facilities are needed. But in addition to lowering BMI, it would also benefit children’s physical and mental health, their cognitive function, and their ability to concentrate in class, wrote co-author Jessica L. Barrett of Harvard.
“Many American children do not meet recommendations for moderate to vigorous physical activity,” they reported. “Only 4 percent of elementary schools currently provide 150 minutes per week of physical education,” and less than half of those minutes are typically active.
Less expensive and perhaps more effective long-term would be changing rules nationwide for drinks, physical activity, and screen time in child care facilities for preschoolers, which could reach 3.69 million American children, concluded Davene R. Wright of the University of Washington School of Medicine and one of the co-authors. This would cost $57.80 per BMI unit avoided the first year, but in 10 years would save $51.6 million in health care costs.
In an interview, Dr. Gortmaker also noted that “snacking is a big issue” in children’s excess weight. “Marketers made it normal to be eating at every moment. Toddlers in strollers are constantly munching, and parents show up at kids’ baseball and soccer games with tons of snacks, mostly junk foods and sweet drinks.”
Publications & Tools
NCCOR members explore metrics to express children's energy expenditure
Several approaches have been used to express energy expenditure in youth, but no consensus exists as to which best normalizes data for the wide range of ages and body sizes across a range of physical activities. Published in PLOS ONE, a study led by the NCCOR Youth Energy Expenditure workgroup examined several common metrics for expressing energy expenditure to determine whether one metric can be used for all healthy children.
Effect of the Healthy Schools Program on prevalence of overweight and obesity
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program (HSP) is a national evidence-based obesity-prevention initiative aimed at providing the schools in greatest need with onsite training and technical assistance (TTA) and consultation with national experts (HSP national advisors) to create sustainable healthy change in schools’ nutrition and physical activity environments. A recent study published in Preventing Chronic Disease evaluated the impact of HSP on the prevalence of overweight and obesity in California schools from HSP’s inception in 2006 through 2012.
How supermarkets are increasing their lower-calorie product offerings
Over $638 billion is spent in supermarkets annually, giving them a major role in displaying and marketing foods and beverages. A report from the Hudson Institute examined supermarket sales of lower-calorie items to determine whether they were capitalizing on consumer trends in demand for these items. It also looked at sales in food deserts and sales of the foods and beverages that contribute the most calories to young people’s diets.
Childhood Obesity Research & News
Parents’ denial fuels childhood obesity epidemic
June 15, 2015, The New York Times
By Jan Hoffman
Not only was the 16-year-old boy 60 pounds overweight, but a blood test showed he might have fatty liver disease. At last, his mother took him to a pediatric weight management clinic in New Haven. But she did not at all like the dietitian’s advice.
“I can’t believe you’re telling me I can’t buy Chips Ahoy! cookies,” said the mother, herself a nurse.
This was hardly the first time that Mary Savoye, the exasperated dietitian who recalled this exchange, had counseled parents who seem unable to acknowledge the harsh truth about their child’s weight.
“Often they don’t want to accept it because change means a lot of work for everyone, including themselves,” Ms. Savoye said.
Despite widespread publicity about the obesity epidemic, parents increasingly seem to be turning a blind eye as their children put on pounds. In a recent study in Childhood Obesity, more than three-quarters of parents of preschool-age obese sons and nearly 70 percent of parents of obese daughters described their children as “about the right weight.”
The researchers also compared these 2012 survey results with those from a similar survey in 1994. Not only were the children in the recent survey significantly heavier, but the likelihood that parents could identify their child’s weight accurately had declined about 30 percent.
Dr. David L. Katz, the director of Yale’s Prevention Research Center, has coined a word for the problem: “oblivobesity.”
“Parents cannot ignore the threat of obesity to our children and still hope to fix it,” he wrote in an editorial accompanying the new study.
One reason parents may have difficulty perceiving their child’s weight is because of the “new normal”: Throughout the developed world and even in some developing countries, children are generally becoming heavier.
But in an interview, Dr. Katz also cited parents for “willful, genuine denial.”
Once a parent acknowledges the child has a problem, he said, “You have to deal with it.”
“‘Do I become the food police? Do I have to change my diet and walk the walk?’” he added. “So, often, it’s easier to pretend the problem’s not there.”
Other experts counter that the problem can be complicated and subtle, the result of family dynamics. Perhaps the parents are resigned to being overweight. Perhaps there are slender siblings, and the parents cannot figure out a diet that fits all.
“Denial can be a coping mechanism,” said Arnaldo Perez, a doctoral candidate at the University of Alberta who researches what motivates families to seek help for their overweight children. Before judging them outright, providers should explore parents’ possible feelings of guilt and failure, he said.
Denial may also be a form of wishful thinking.
It is “natural for a parent to want to think optimistically about their child,” Dr. Thomas N. Robinson, a professor of pediatrics and director of the Center for Healthy Weight at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, wrote in an email. [Dr. Robinson is also a member of the NCCOR External Scientific Panel.]
“I have parents tell me that they waited to address it because they thought their child would ‘grow out’ of their extra weight,” he added.
It is only now, as Bonnie Ryan of Bridgeport, Conn., looks at old photographs of her grandson, age 12, that she sees how the weight accumulated over the years. At age 7, he was “chunky,” she remembers thinking. And at age 8, chunkier still.
But his father grew to 6 feet 4 inches tall and about 220 pounds. She hoped her grandson would stretch out, too. The boy’s parents separated. Lonely, he kept eating.
Shortly after her grandson’s checkup at age 11, she and her son met with the pediatrician.
Her grandson, the doctor said, was 5-foot-1, 200 pounds, and had pre-diabetes.
“You think he’s a little overweight and then suddenly, ‘oh my God,’ ” she said. They could no longer look away. She has enrolled the boy in Bright Bodies, a healthy lifestyle program in New Haven, sponsored by Yale.
A child’s weight problem may escape notice for any number of reasons. Many clothing styles obscure shape, for instance, particularly for boys.
“When they take their loose-fitting shirts and pants off in the exam room, you see just how a tremendous amount of body fat can be hidden,” Dr. Robinson said.
And when parents believe their children are active, they are more likely to consider their child’s weight to be normal, studies have shown. But parents often overestimate their children’s physical activity.
Other confounding factors include immigrant status and socioeconomic standing.
Dr. Francine R. Kaufman, a pediatrics professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, said that among new immigrants from countries where starvation is a reality, “Even the 3-, 5- and 7-year-old can’t be heavy enough for [older relatives]. Nourishing and nurturing children is often the same.”
Studies do show that as adolescence approaches, more parents pay attention to their children’s weight problems, because social exclusion and sliding self-esteem become more pressing. But Dr. Kaufman said that in her experience, those parents tended to be middle and upper-middle class.
“Eating healthy costs more,” said Dr. Kaufman, the author of “Diabesity.” “It’s harder for someone with a fixed income who relies on school lunches than someone who can get the kid a personal trainer and buy their groceries at Whole Foods.”
Other researchers blame the rise in “oblivobesity” on imperfect communication between parents and pediatricians.
A 2011 study in Pediatrics found that parents preferred that physicians use terms like “weight problem” and “unhealthy weight,” rather than “fat,” “obese,” and “extremely obese.” Doctors may feel awkward about using blunt language, for fear of pushing away patients and losing the opportunity to discuss behavioral change.
Parents and physicians may have conflicting ideas about appropriate weight. Research shows that some low-income mothers distrust growth and weight charts.
Of course, a body mass index score or a number on a scale is one factor among many that indicate a child’s overall health. “But weight is the canary in the coal mine of chronic disease,” Dr. Katz said.
Dr. Katz and others said that a first step in helping parents help their children was to set aside the shame that might be their biggest impediment.
“It has to be about love,” he said. “Families have to approach this together. This is not just about the child.”
Indeed, children may be more aware than their parents that they are overweight. They are barraged with ambient news media messages, and their peers are not likely to be stingy with cutting comments.
But children may not know how to change their eating habits.
The other night at Bright Bodies, the New Haven program, Ms. Savoye facilitated a discussion in a weight-management group for teenagers. One girl, age 15, had lost 30 pounds and had about 40 more to go.
“I wish my parents had done something about my weight earlier,” the girl said.
If current trends hold, childhood obesity will hit 70 million by 2025
June 22, 2015, UN News Centre
Childhood obesity does not arise from lifestyle choices made by the child, the World Health Organization (WHO) said June 22, 2015, stressing that the huge problem, especially in developing countries, is the marketing of sugar-rich non-alcoholic beverages, ultra-processed, energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods.
“Childhood obesity can erode the benefits that arrive with social and economic progress,” WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan told the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, which is meeting in Hong Kong. “Childhood obesity must be accepted as a significant and urgent threat to health that is relevant in all countries. Governments must take the lead.”
Dr. Chan praised the interim report on the work carried out thus far by the Commission and commended the group’s warning that “voluntary initiatives are not likely to be sufficient.”
“To be successful, efforts aimed at reducing the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages need support from regulatory and statutory approaches,” she said.
She also noted that “perhaps most importantly, you defined a moral responsibility and stated where it must lie. None of the factors that cause obesity are under the control of the child.”
According to WHO, the number of overweight or obese infants and young children increased from 32 million globally in 1990 to 42 million in 2013. In Africa alone, the number of overweight or obese children increased from 4 million to 9 million over the same period.
The WHO fact sheet on childhood obesity also said that the vast majority of overweight or obese children live in developing countries, and if current trends continue the number of overweight or obese infants and young children globally will increase to 70 million by 2025.
“Childhood obesity does not arise from lifestyle choices made by the child,” the WHO chief said. “It arises from environments created by society and supported by government policies. The argument that obesity is the result of personal lifestyle choices, often used to excuse governments from any responsibility to intervene, cannot apply to childhood obesity.”
She urged the Commission to turn its findings and new thinking into further recommendations and menus of policy options.
“Industry must have no say on the technical guidance issued by WHO,” she said. “And industry cannot participate in the formulation of public health policies. Both areas are prone to conflicts of interest. Both must be protected from influence by industries with a vested interest.”
And she flagged that “the biggest harm comes from the marketing of sugar-rich non-alcoholic beverages and ultra-processed, energy-dense, and nutrient-poor foods, which are often the cheapest and most readily available, especially in poorer communities.”
Dr. Chan said she looked forward to receiving the Commission’s next report, which will form the basis of a final round of consultations during the second half of this year.
WHO’s governing body, the World Health Assembly, in 2014 approved the Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases 2013-2020, which aims to achieve the commitments of the United Nations Political Declaration on non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The action plan will contribute to progress on nine global NCD targets to be attained in 2025, including halting of the global obesity rates in school-aged children, adolescents, and adults.
Original source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51220#.VY2c3vlVhHw
Overweight infants still risk obesity even if breastfed
June 16, 2015, Medscape Medical News
By Beth Skwarecki
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first three months of life did not change children’s risk of becoming overweight by ages 5-6 in a population-based prospective birth cohort study from the Netherlands.
The results, published online June 4 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, join a body of sometimes contradictory findings on breastfeeding and the risk for obesity.
“In the last decades the prevalence of childhood overweight has increased substantially. Even though the prevalence in more developed countries seems to be plateauing, overweight in children is a major cause of adverse health consequences such as cardiovascular disease, asthma and, type 2 diabetes. In addition to these physical consequences, psychological and social problems may occur, such as a lower self-esteem, depression, stigmatization, and discrimination,” Esmee van der Willik of the Department of Public and Occupational Health at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam and colleagues write.
“This issue will never be completely resolved, because it will always look different in different populations,” said Steven Abrams of the Department of Pediatrics at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin during an interview with Medscape Medical News. Dr. Abrams was not involved in the study. He noted that the Dutch mothers in the study come from a population with a higher income level, a more homogeneous ethnic makeup, and a higher incidence of breastfeeding than their counterparts in the United States.
The Dutch study involved 3,367 children who were part of a larger population-based child health study, not born as a twin or multiple, and without congenital malformations (as these can affect growth patterns). The researchers excluded 2,776 children whose feeding type or weight status were unknown.
Children who were overweight at age 6 months were four times (95 percent confidence interval [CI], 2.91 to 5.78) more likely than their thinner peers to be overweight at the 5- to 6-year-old mark. Feeding type did not change that association. Of the babies in the study, 42.3 percent were exclusively breastfed for at least three months. At age 6 months, 11.4 percent of those breastfed babies were overweight, which was statistically indistinguishable from the 12.6 percent of formula-fed or mixed-fed infants who were overweight at that age. By 5 to 6 years of age, overweight children made up 10.1 percent of those who had been breastfed, and 11.2 percent of those in the formula or mixed feeding groups, which again was not a statistically significant difference. There was still no association after adjusting for confounding factors including maternal body mass index, smoking during pregnancy, ethnicity, and birth weight.
“[W]e should be worried about overweight exclusively breastfed babies. Overweight from [exclusive breastfeeding] is just as disadvantageous as overweight from [mixed feeding] or [formula feeding],” the researchers write. They emphasize that providers should monitor infants’ weight, and that diet and exercise are “probably more promising” as preventative measures than breastfeeding.
Dr. Abrams agrees. “It’s important not to say things like, ‘’if you breast-feed your baby, he will not become obese.’” He recommended speaking with parents about the health benefits of breastfeeding that extend beyond possible obesity prevention. “It may, because intake is regulated, help decrease the risk of overweight. But in and of itself, it doesn’t keep a baby—or later a child—from being overweight.”
Original source: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/846598
Health improves when teens exercise like young kids
June 22, 2015, Medical News Today
By Catharine Paddock
Health experts advise that children and teenagers should do at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. This can accumulate over the day—for example cycling to school, walking or running around during recess, and doing sports and gymnastics. Now, a new study of teenagers shows that the intensity of short bursts of activity makes a difference to health outcomes.
Researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom concluded that when adolescents accumulate exercise over the day, short bouts of intense activity have a more beneficial effect on health than shorts bouts of less intense activity.
Reporting in the journal Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental, they show how as little as two minutes of high-intensity exercise four times a day had a more beneficial effect on blood sugar levels, fat metabolism, and blood pressure—measured after eating a fatty meal—than the same amount of moderate intensity exercise.
Senior author Dr. Alan Barker, a lecturer in pediatric exercise and health at Exeter, says:
“Children and adolescents tend to perform brief bouts of exercise. This study shows that the intensity of this pattern of exercise is important, with high-intensity providing superior health benefits [to] moderate-intensity exercise.”
For the study, the team examined 19 teenagers’ blood sugar, systolic blood pressure, and fat oxidation at regular intervals over three days, during which the youngsters consumed a high fat milkshake for breakfast and lunch. The participants were nine male and 10 female 13-year-olds.
During the three days, the participants completed three different exercise patterns in random order: rest, four bouts of high-intensity, and four bouts of moderate intensity exercise performed on exercise bikes. On exercise days, the bouts were done two hours apart.
During the bouts of exercise, the participants performed the same amount of work, so the researchers could examine the effect of intensity alone.
The authors found that neither type of exercise changed levels of excess fat in the blood. However, brief bouts of high-intensity exercise—but not moderate-intensity exercise—reduced blood sugar and systolic blood pressure, and increased fat metabolism in the teen boys and girls.
They conclude: “The intensity of accumulated exercise may therefore have important implications for health outcomes in youth.”
The study adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests accumulating short bursts of high-intensity exercise may be more important for heart health than accumulating moderate intensity exercise. This is important because heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and the drivers start when we are young.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children and teenagers in the United States should be physically active for at least one hour a day.
Most of the daily exercise should be aerobic to help healthy development of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels, but there should also be some that strengthens muscles and bones.
Aerobic activity includes, for example, brisk walking (moderate intensity) and running (high intensity). Muscle strengthening activity includes gymnastics and push-ups, and bone-strengthening activity includes jumping rope and running.
Parents concerned about their children not getting enough exercise may consider enrolling them for dance classes. However, Medical News Today recently learned of a study from the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine that found most of kids’ time in youth dance classes is inactive, suggesting parents should be careful about selecting the right dance class for their kids.
Original source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/295710.php
Research: Feed children greens early in life
June 10, 2015, The Telegraph
By Javier Espinoza
The taste of vegetables can grow on your children from an early age, new research has found.
If you want your children to eat vegetables, feed them a lot in the first 15 days of weaning, a new study has found.
The University College London (UCL) research, revealed that starting British children on simple vegetables during the first 15 days of weaning makes them more willing to try, accept, and like new vegetables.
Researchers asked mothers to introduce babies to five vegetables every day as first foods, repeated for a period of 15 days.
A month later, babies were introduced to an unfamiliar vegetable: artichoke puree. The vegetable was chosen because it is not included in baby food that’s readily available in British supermarkets and is rarely eaten by kids.
Researchers then measured how much they ate in grams and both researchers and mothers rated how much they appeared to like it on a scale of one to nine. ‘One’ meant they hated it, ‘nine’ meant they loved it, and ‘five’ meant they neither liked it nor hated it.
The result was that babies in the intervention arm ate about twice as much (32.8 grams vs. 16.5 grams) as the control babies. They also ‘liked’ it (6.7) whereas the control babies somewhat ‘disliked’ it (4.3).
The study, which was published by the British Journal of Nutrition, analyzed the tastes of 56 mothers and babies.
Dr. Alison Fildes, co-author of the report and an expert on food preferences with UCL, said “the weaning period usually lasts 5-7 months and children are very receptive to new tastes and we want to take advantage of that opportunity by introducing a variety of vegetables during that time.”
“It is about being exposed to a great variety of vegetables rather than great quantities.”
The study asked mothers not only to introduce five different vegetables, but also vegetables with varied flavors and colors, from butternut spinach and broccoli.
Dr. Fildes added “in the United Kingdom parents tend to feed their child baby rice and baby cereal, which is very bland, and fruits, which are sweet. Even puree has a multitude of different vegetables and fruit combined. So the baby’s taste is not getting exposed to the taste of the vegetable.”
“The more times you taste the food, the more you tend to like it.”
Previous research has shown that it takes longer to teach oneself to like certain tastes as we age. It takes roughly 10-14 tastes to like a new food in later childhood and adulthood.
Dr. Fildes said “the difficulty with children is getting them to taste it in the first place, so our research has looked at turning it into a game and rewarding children with stickers when they agree to taste something.”
“The findings of this study suggest that repeatedly offering a variety of vegetables to infants at the start of weaning may work to increase vegetable acceptance in countries where vegetables are not already given as first foods.”
“However, we don’t know yet whether this effect will last throughout toddlerhood and into later childhood, so this will need to be explored in future studies.”
A total of 139 mothers and babies took part in the research from the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Greece. There was no difference in the quantity of fruit puree children ate or how much they seemed to like it.