The interest in children’s eating behaviours and how to change them has been growing in recent years. This review examines the following questions: What strategies have been used to change children’s eating behaviours? Have their effects been experimentally demonstrated? And, are the effects transient or enduring? Medline and Cab abstract (Ovid) and Web of Science (Thomson Reuters) were used to identify the experimental studies. A total of 120 experimental studies were identified and they are presented grouped within these 11 topics; parental control, reward, social facilitation, cooking programs, school gardens, sensory education, availability and accessibility, choice architecture and nudging, branding and food packaging, preparation and serving style, and offering a choice. In conclusion, controlling strategies for changing children’s eating behaviour in a positive direction appear to be counterproductive. Hands-on approaches such as gardening and cooking programs may encourage greater vegetable consumption and may have a larger effect compared to nutrition education. Providing children with free, accessible fruits and vegetables have been experimentally shown to positively affect long-term eating behaviour. The authors recommend future research to examine how taste and palatability can positively affect children’s attitudes and eating behaviour.
Chocolate and cocoa flavanols have been associated with improvements in a range of health complaints dating from ancient times, and has established cardiovascular benefits. Less is known about the effects of chocolate on neurocognition and behavior. The aim of this study was to investigate whether chocolate intake was associated with cognitive function, with adjustment for cardiovascular, lifestyle and dietary factors. Cross-sectional analyses were undertaken on 968 community-dwelling participants, aged 23-98 years, from the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS). Habitual chocolate intake was related to cognitive performance, measured with an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests. More frequent chocolate consumption was significantly associated with better performance on the Global Composite score, Visual-Spatial Memory and Organization, Working Memory, Scanning and Tracking, Abstract Reasoning, and the Mini-Mental State Examination. With the exception of Working Memory, these relations were not attenuated with statistical control for cardiovascular, lifestyle and dietary factors. Prospective analyses revealed no association between cognitive function and chocolate intake measured up to 18 years later. Further intervention trials and longitudinal studies are needed to explore relations between chocolate, cocoa flavanols and cognition, and the underlying causal mechanisms.
Children consume too much sugar and not enough fruit and vegetables, increasing their risk of adverse health outcomes. Inhibitory control training (ICT) reduces children’s and adults' intake of energy-dense foods in both laboratory and real-life settings. However, no studies have yet examined whether ICT can increase healthy food choice when energy-dense options are also available. We investigated whether a food-specific Go/No-Go task could influence the food choices of children aged 4-11, as measured by a hypothetical food choice task using healthy and unhealthy food images printed on cards. Participants played either an active game (healthy foods = 100% go, unhealthy foods = 100% no-go; Studies 1 & 2), a food control game (both healthy and unhealthy foods = 50% go, 50% no-go; Studies 1 & 2) or a non-food control game (sports equipment = 100% go, technology = 100% no-go; Study 2 only) followed by the choice task. In Study 2, food card choices were also measured before training to examine change in choices. A post-training real food choice task was added to check that choices made in the card-based task were representative of choices made when faced with real healthy and unhealthy foods. Overall, the active group chose the greatest number of healthy food cards. Study 2 confirmed that this was due to increases in healthy food card choice in this group only. Active group participants chose a greater number of healthy foods in the real food choice task compared to children in the non-food control group only. The results are discussed with reference to methodological issues and the development of future healthy eating interventions.
In two studies, we investigated how bitter taste preferences might be associated with antisocial personality traits. Two US American community samples (total N = 953; mean age = 35.65 years; 48% females) self-reported their taste preferences using two complementary preference measures and answered a number of personality questionnaires assessing Machiavellianism, psychopathy, narcissism, everyday sadism, trait aggression, and the Big Five factors of personality. The results of both studies confirmed the hypothesis that bitter taste preferences are positively associated with malevolent personality traits, with the most robust relation to everyday sadism and psychopathy. Regression analyses confirmed that this association holds when controlling for sweet, sour, and salty taste preferences and that bitter taste preferences are the overall strongest predictor compared to the other taste preferences. The data thereby provide novel insights into the relationship between personality and the ubiquitous behaviors of eating and drinking by consistently demonstrating a robust relation between increased enjoyment of bitter foods and heightened sadistic proclivities.
This review discusses how the ingestion of cold foods and drinks may be perceived as pleasant because of the effects of cooling of the mouth. The case is made that man has originated from a tropical environment and that cold stimuli applied to the external skin may initiate thermal discomfort and reflexes such as shivering and vasoconstriction that defend body temperature, whereas cold stimuli applied to the mouth are perceived as pleasant because of pleasure associated with satiation of thirst and a refreshing effect. Cold water is preferred to warm water as a thirst quencher and cold products such as ice cream may also be perceived as pleasant because oral cooling satiates thirst. The case is made that cold stimuli may be perceived differently in the skin and oral mucosa, leading to different effects on temperature regulation, and perception of pleasure or displeasure, depending on the body temperature and the temperature of the external environment.
It has been suggested that the use of nonnutritive sweeteners (NNSs) can lead to weight gain, but evidence regarding their real effect in body weight and satiety is still inconclusive. Using a rat model, the present study compares the effect of saccharin and aspartame to sucrose in body weight gain and in caloric intake. Twenty-nine male Wistar rats received plain yogurt sweetened with 20% sucrose, 0.3% sodium saccharin or 0.4% aspartame, in addition to chow and water ad libitum, while physical activity was restrained. Measurements of cumulative body weight gain, total caloric intake, caloric intake of chow and caloric intake of sweetened yogurt were performed weekly for 12weeks. Results showed that addition of either saccharin or aspartame to yogurt resulted in increased weight gain compared to addition of sucrose, however total caloric intake was similar among groups. In conclusion, greater weight gain was promoted by the use of saccharin or aspartame, compared with sucrose, and this weight gain was unrelated to caloric intake. We speculate that a decrease in energy expenditure or increase in fluid retention might be involved.
The usefulness of replacement of caloric sugars by low-calorie sweeteners (LCS) for weight management has been questioned on the grounds that the uncoupling of LCS sweet taste and dietary energy may confuse physiological mechanisms, leading potentially to higher energy and sugar intake. The aim of the present study was to determine whether LCS beverages compared to water, when consumed with meals, differ in their effects on energy and food intake in acute trials and after long-term habituation. Ad libitum food intake of 166 (80 women; 86 men) healthy non-obese adults (BMI between 19 and 28 kg/m2), infrequent consumers of LCS was measured in four 2-consecutive-day testing sessions (Day 1 in the laboratory, Day 2 free-living). During the first 3 sessions, held one-week apart, participants were required to drink either water or commercial non-carbonated LCS lemonade (330 ml) with their main meals (randomised cross-over design). On Day 1, motivational ratings were obtained using visual analogue scales and ad libitum food intakes (amounts and types of foods selected) were measured using the plate waste method. On Day 2, participants reported their ad libitum intakes using a food diary. After Session 3, participants were randomly assigned to the LCS habituation group or to the water control group. The habituation (660 ml LCS lemonade daily vs 660 ml water) lasted 5 weeks. The fourth and final test session measured food intakes and motivational ratings after habituation. Water and LCS beverage did not differ in their effects on total energy intake, macronutrient intakes or the selection of sweet foods and on motivational ratings. Similar results were obtained in both LCS-naïve and LCS-habituated individuals.
Chocolate consumption is anecdotally associated with an increase in happiness, but little experimental work has examined this effect. We combined a food type manipulation (chocolate vs. crackers) with a mindfulness manipulation (mindful consumption vs. non-mindful consumption) and examined the impact on positive mood. Participants (N = 258) were randomly assigned to eat a small portion (75 calories) of chocolate or a control food (crackers) in a mindful or non-mindful way. Participants who were instructed to mindfully eat chocolate had a greater increase in positive mood compared to participants who were instructed to eat chocolate non-mindfully or crackers either mindfully or non-mindfully. Additional analyses revealed that self-reported liking of the food partially mediated this effect. Chocolate appears to increase positive mood, but particularly when it is eaten mindfully.
Eating disorders pose risks to health and wellbeing in young adolescents, but prospective studies of risk factors are scarce and this has impeded prevention efforts. This longitudinal study aimed to examine risk factors for eating disorder symptoms in a population-based birth cohort of young adolescents at 12 years. Participants from the Gateshead Millennium Study birth cohort (n = 516; 262 girls and 254 boys) completed self-report questionnaire measures of eating disorder symptoms and putative risk factors at age 7 years, 9 years and 12 years, including dietary restraint, depressive symptoms and body dissatisfaction. Body mass index (BMI) was also measured at each age. Within-time correlates of eating disorder symptoms at 12 years of age were greater body dissatisfaction for both sexes and, for girls only, higher depressive symptoms. For both sexes, higher eating disorder symptoms at 9 years old significantly predicted higher eating disorder symptoms at 12 years old. Dietary restraint at 7 years old predicted boys' eating disorder symptoms at age 12, but not girls'. Factors that did not predict eating disorder symptoms at 12 years of age were BMI (any age), girls' dietary restraint at 7 years and body dissatisfaction at 7 and 9 years of age for both sexes. In this population-based study, different patterns of predictors and correlates of eating disorder symptoms were found for girls and boys. Body dissatisfaction, a purported risk factor for eating disorder symptoms in young adolescents, developed concurrently with eating disorder symptoms rather than preceding them. However, restraint at age 7 and eating disorder symptoms at age 9 years did predict 12-year eating disorder symptoms. Overall, our findings suggest that efforts to prevent disordered eating might beneficially focus on preadolescent populations.
Most children do not meet daily recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake, and consumption of vegetables remains especially low. Eating habits track from childhood to adulthood hence establishing liking and intake of vegetables is important.