Toddlers who are overweight consume larger meals but do not eat more frequently compared to healthy weight infants, a new study has found.
The findings showed that overweight infants were consuming larger meals worth 141 calories than the healthy weight infants with 130 calories, at each meal. In addition, the overweight toddlers appeared to be consuming more calories than the healthy weight by eating larger portions of the same types of foods (160g versus 146g).
‘The overweight toddlers appear to consume more calories than the healthy weight babies by eating larger portions of the same types of foods.’
For every extra 24 calories (100 kJ) consumed during each meal, there was a nine per cent increased risk of overweight or obesity. Given that these children are less than two years of age, over time the effects could be substantial, the researchers said. However, they were not eating more frequently throughout the course of the day.
"Larger portions rather than eating more often may be a risk factor for the development of childhood overweight in early life," said Hayley Syrad from University College London. It was because there was no difference in the energy density of the meals (kJ/gram) consumed between overweight and healthy weight toddlers.
Further, the difference in average meal size between the overweight and healthy weight toddlers was 11 calories. As infants on an average eat five times per day, the difference over the course of a week remained considerable.
"An excess of 11 calories per meal equates to an extra 56 calories per day, an extra 393 calories per week, and an extra 1703 calories per month," Syrad explained, adding, "this small extra intake each meal means that overweight infants are consuming approximately 2 extra days' worth of energy each month".
For the study, the team used diet diaries collected in 2,564 toddlers aged 4-18 months to study meal size and meal frequency in relation to weight. The results were presented at the European Obesity Summit 2016 in Sweden, recently.