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Weight Gain Attributed To Sweets, Not Salty Foods, In Low-Income Children

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Children with full stomachs who consumed cookies instead of potato chips were at a higher risk of having increased body fat, according to a new study conducted by University of Michigan researchers.

By consuming dessert-type foods over salty alternatives, researchers are concerned that unhealthy weight gain could be one of the consequences for children.

"Eating in the absence of hunger is associated with being overweight among older children, but this is the first time we've seen this link in children as young as toddlerhood," said Julie Lumeng, M.D., senior author of the study.

Sugar or salt

During the study, over 200 low-income mothers had their children fast for an hour and then eat a hearty lunch. The toddlers were then given trays of treats like chocolate chip cookies and salty potato chips. They were instructed to consume as much as they wanted.

The results showed that children between the ages of one and three who ate the cookies experienced an increase in body fat by 33 months of age. This gradual increase in body fat was not shared by the children who preferred the salty foods.

"The tendency to eat when you're not hungry increases with age and could have lifelong implications for weight gain," said Lumeng. "We need to explore ways to target this drive to eat before children even turn three."

Additionally, parents who use sweets as a reward could not only be contributing to more body fat in their children, but also unintentionally teaching them to be emotional eaters.

Source: University of Michigan Health System