According to John Spence, a behavioral scientist in the faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta, Canada, habits that lead to obesity develop at the pre-school age.
Spence examined the connection with food and the relationship with body weight in 1730 children between the ages of four and five. Their parents were asked to fill out a survey based on statements about how their children responded to food, such as “My child eats more when worried.”
Even in children at such a young age, results showed significant differences between children in different weight groups based on the statements their parents showed. For example, children who demonstrated approach behaviors, such as eating when upset or bored, we are much higher risk of being overweight than children who demonstrated avoidance behaviors, such as fussy or slow eating.
Spence believes that the main influence on eating behavior is the household environment. There are family dynamics that lead children to be more approach or avoid-based about food. Examples of such dynamics are exposure to food and the prevention or promotion of physical activity.
In the United States, the child obesity rate is growing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, currently around 20 percent of children and adolescents living in the United States are obese. Obesity is a serious health concern, as it can lead to coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, liver disease, and infertility.
For more information and tips on how to prevent obesity, visit NorthShore University HealthSystem.