Can Children Engage in Emotional Eating? Study Says Yes.

Can Children Engage in Emotional Eating? Study Says Yes.

Majority of the people are familiar with the term ‘emotional eating’ especially the adults, most of whom have also done it.

There are studies that have highlighted the effect of emotions on the daily food choices of adults. A new research has concentrated on the same phenomenon in children.

When a person is experiencing a sentimental overflow due to different reasons, he/she is more likely to pick ice-cream over yogurt. Bad moods can destroy the supposed healthy diet any day.

Research on emotional eating in adults has confirmed that negative emotions such as sadness, boredom, and anger may increase the chances of poor dietary choices such as munching on a burger over a bowl of fruit salad.

Studies on the subject have also revealed that adults who tend to give into negative feelings and end up eating unhealthy foods are more likely to have the adverse impact on their mental and physical health. Depression and obesity are some of the common outcomes of emotional eating.

Both obesity and depression are among the prevalent health issues in the United States which seem to affect more and more people every year. For this reason, looking into the factors that lead to either is fairly important at the moment.

A number of studies have also shown that adolescents and children may also indulge in emotional eating. Since the cases of obesity in children are higher than ever, studying the food choices of children is equally significant.

RELATED: What Causes Obesity in Children?

Can Children Engage in Emotional Eating? Study Says Yes.

The problem with previous studies on emotional eating in children is that they have relied on questioning the parents about dietary choices and habits of their kids. This method is not that trustworthy.

The new research conducted by Dr. Shayla C Holub, from the University of Texas at Dallas, and Dr. Cin Cin Tan, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, has used a different and fresh methodology to study sentimental dietary choices in children.

To get a more accurate idea, the researchers stopped relying on self-reporting and opted for measuring the food intake in the children instead.

They also looked at whether positive moods can also cause a similar response as well. The findings of the study were published in the journal Appetite.

Read the full study here.

The scientists recruited 91 children between the ages of 4.5 and 9 years. The children’s moods were also modified to see the instant effects. This was done by showing Disney’s The Lion King to the children.

A sad clip, happy clip, and a neutral clip were picked out from the movie. The different groups of children only watched one of these clips. After watching their respective clip, the children were given a choice between two snacks – chocolates and goldfish crackers.

It was observed that the participants in the sad group consumed more chocolate than the children in the happy group but the happy group also picked chocolate more than the neutral group.

Goldfish crackers were eaten in the highest numbers by the neutral group, followed by the happy group, and then the sad group. The children were seen to respond to both happiness and sadness but more to the latter.

Girls and boys in the groups responded in a similar way. It was also noted that the older children in the sad group consumed more chocolate than any other kids in all three groups. However, the body mass index of the children remained unaffected.

Findings such as these are very important given that obesity in children has reached an all-time high. According to the researchers in the group, the habits of the adults around a child specifically affect the child’s own food choices.

In addition, restricting a kid’s food choices or giving them candy or chocolate when they are upset or have done well can lead to the child forming a habit of consuming unhealthy foods.

Although this can be modified in the future, it can be very hard to let go of childhood habits. It is important for the parents to have a healthy diet so that their children may not struggle with food choices in the future.

Can Children Engage in Emotional Eating? Study Says Yes.




Andrea White

As a graduate of Public Health and Policy, Andrea developed an interest in disease development, food and safety and the latest advancements in health. She is a Freelance writer who had affiliations with multiple blogs. Andrea is now pursuing her post-doctorate in Behavioral Sciences.

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