Maternal food choices can play a crucial role in determining the risk of having obese children, highlights a new study conducted by researchers at Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) and Boston Medical Center (BMC). The impact of this problem is more relevant in the developing and underdeveloped countries where access to adequate and healthy food is inadequate.
'What we have is a paradox. Mothers in households where food availability was either erratic or scarce had approximately twice the odds of giving their child food to boost calories or to stimulate the appetite,' explained lead researcher Emily Feinberg, Sc.D., Assistant Professor, Maternal and Child Health at Boston University School of Public Health and Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center.
'Our findings suggest that the mothers may choose to provide high-calorie nutritional supplements to children and that may increase the risk for a child to become overweight, specifically in households where there are food shortages,' added Feinberg.
As part of the study researchers interviewed 248 mothers of normal and overweight Haitian and African-American children, ages 2 - 12. The researchers found 28 percent of the sample experienced an overall shortage of food or periodic interruptions, with significantly more Haitian families experiencing food scarcity. Routine use of calorie boosters including, Carnation Instant Breakfast and Pediasure, and perceived appetite stimulants were used by 43 percent and 12 percent of the sample respectively.
This is one of the first studies to focus on how food insecurity may influence maternal choices of food that increase the risk for a child to become overweight. Although a lack of an adequate food supply has been associated with becoming overweight in adult women and certain subpopulations of children, it has not been well studied among low income, ethnically diverse black children.