Fussy infants find food more rewarding, putting them at higher risk for obesity

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Baku, August 20, AZERTAC

Babies that seem to get upset more easily and take longer to calm down may be at higher risk for obesity while babies that exhibit more “cuddliness” and calm down easily are less likely at risk, according to a University at Buffalo study.

The purpose of the research, published July 22 online ahead of print in Childhood Obesity, is to explore new ways to identify infants at risk for becoming overweight or obese in order to intervene as early as possible.

“The research tells us that differences in behavior begin as early as infancy and those differences can influence health behaviors that impact future health risks,” said Kai Ling Kong, PhD, first author and assistant professor of pediatrics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. Kong conducts research in the Division of Behavioral Medicine in the UB Department of Pediatrics.

In the study, 105 infants from nine to 18 months old were taught to press a button to earn a reward. They completed the task twice, and received either a piece of their favorite food as a reward or ten seconds of a non-food reward, such as blowing bubbles, watching a Baby Einstein DVD or hearing music. Parents were instructed to say only specific phrases while the child completed the task.

As the task went on, it became increasingly difficult for the infant to earn the reward as they had to press the button more times. The amount of “work” they were willing to do was calculated by counting the number of times the child was willing to press the button to get the reward.

The child’s temperament was assessed through a detailed, 191-question online questionnaire that parents completed.

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