Diet foods for children may lead to obesity

Aug 08, 2007

Diet foods and drinks for children may inadvertently lead to overeating and obesity, says a new report from the University of Alberta.

A team of researchers contends that animals learn to connect the taste of food with the amount of caloric energy it provides, and children who consume low-calorie versions of foods that are normally high in calories may develop distorted connections between taste and calorie content, leading them to overeat as they grow up.

The research will be published today in the academic journal Obesity.

"Based on what we've learned, it is better for children to eat healthy, well-balanced diets with sufficient calories for their daily activities rather than low-calorie snacks or meals," said Dr. David Pierce, a University of Alberta sociologist and lead author of the paper.

The researchers conducted a series of elaborate experiments that proved substituting low-calorie versions of foods and drinks led to overeating in a sample of young rats, including ones that were lean and ones that were genetically obese. Although both lean and obese rats overate during their regular meals, the added calories have more serious health implications for obese animals.

Adolescent rats that were also fed diet foods did not display the same tendency to overeat. The researchers believe the older rats did not overeat because they, unlike the younger rats, relied on a variety of taste-related cues to correctly assess the energy value of their food.

"The use of diet food and drinks from an early age into adulthood may induce overeating and gradual weight gain through the taste conditioning process that we have described," Pierce said.

Pierce added that his team's "taste conditioning process" theory may explain "puzzling results" from other studies, such as a recent one from researchers at the University of Massachusetts, who found links between diet soda consumption (among children") and a higher risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, but further research is necessary with older animals using a variety of taste-related cues.

"One thing is clear at this point," Pierce said, "our research has shown that young animals can be made to overeat when low-calorie foods and drinks are given to them on a daily basis, and this subverts their bodies' energy-balance system.

"Parents and health professionals should be made aware of this and know that the old-fashioned ways to keep children fit and healthy—insuring they eat well-balanced meals and exercise regularly—are the best ways. Diet foods are probably not a good idea for growing youngsters."

Source: University of Alberta

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Isotope analysis of Flakstad skeletons

Dec 09, 2013

How was life for common people in Norway during the period 400–1050 AD? Can we learn more? Yes, according to Elise Naumann, research scholar in archaeology.

Flame retardants in blood drop after state ban

Sep 25, 2013

A class of flame retardants that has been linked to learning difficulties in children has rapidly declined in pregnant women's blood since the chemicals were banned in California a decade ago, according to a study led by ...

Recommended for you

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

14 hours ago

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury (Update)

14 hours ago

About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City's jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that's the latest in a growing body ...

Autonomy and relationships among 'good life' goals

21 hours ago

Young adults with Down syndrome have a strong desire to be self-sufficient by living independently and having a job, according to a study into the meaning of wellbeing among young people affected by the disorder.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.