Pediatric Obesity Resources

Each month, the pediatric obesity committee posts a pediatric-focused obesity research update to help keep you up to date about the latest findings. Below the article you can also find links to more resources related to pediatric obesity.

Pediatric Obesity Research Updates

Influence of Advertising and Genetic Predisposition on Eating in Young Children

This post was written by Lorne Katz, MD, MBA, FAAP. Dr. Katz is the founder of Sawgrass Pediatrics in Coral Springs, Fla.

In the first article published in the November 2016 issue of Pediatrics, the authors studied a randomized group of 60 preschool children ages 2-5 years. The researchers looked at the influence of a 14-minute TV program embedded with food advertisements. There was a significantly greater Eating in the Absence of Hunger (EAH) response among those children exposed to the food advertisements versus those children exposed to non-food advertisements. The authors concluded that food advertisement exposure may encourage obesity-inducing behaviors in young children. It is noted that several child demographics, including BMI percentile and household socioeconomic characteristics, were evaluated and none of these affected the results. This is the first study to show this finding in preschool-aged children, as opposed to older children. The concern is not only that excess caloric consumption may lead to weight gain, but also that it may prime a future eating preference for energy-dense foods. The authors state, quoting references, that eating behaviors develop during early childhood and may form the basis for dietary preferences and habits in later life. View the article.

The second article from the Dartmouth School of Medicine was published in the January 3, 2017, issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was done in a sample of 78 children ages 9-12 years. The researchers, using a well-known obesity risk polymorphism, observed that the children at genetic risk for obesity showed stronger responses to food commercials in the nucleus accumbens (a brain area associated with reward processing) than children not at risk. The researchers also found that those children at risk demonstrated larger nucleus accumbens volumes. The authors concluded that their findings “suggest that children genetically at risk for obesity are predisposed to represent reward signals more strongly—which may contribute to unhealthy eating behaviors later in life.” View the article.

These papers are of clinical significance, in that they can help formulate intervention strategies toward unhealthy eating behaviors, especially in those genetically predisposed.

Links to More Pediatric Obesity Resources