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Int J Obes (Lond). 2009 Jan;33(1):21-8. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.219. Epub 2008 Nov 11.

Eating behaviour and weight in children.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre, 2-16 Torrington Place, Gower Street, London, UK.



To test the hypothesis that quantitative variation in eating behaviour traits shows a graded association with weight in children.


Cross-sectional design in a community setting.


Data were from 406 families participating in the Physical Exercise and Appetite in CHildren Study (PEACHES) or the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS). Children were aged 7-9 years (PEACHES) and 9-12 years (TEDS).


Weights and heights were measured by researchers. Body mass index (BMI) s.d. scores were used to categorize participants into underweight, healthy weight, overweight and obese groups, with an additional division of the healthy weight group into higher and lower healthy weight at the 50th centile. Eating behaviour traits were assessed with the Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire (CEBQ), completed by the parents on behalf of their child. Linear trend analyses compared CEBQ subscale scores across the five weight groups.


Satiety Responsiveness/Slowness in Eating and Food Fussiness showed a graded negative association with weight, whereas Food Responsiveness, Enjoyment of Food, Emotional Overeating and Desire to Drink were positively associated. All effects were maintained after controlling for age, sex, ethnicity, parental education and sample. There was no systematic association with weight for Emotional Undereating.


These results support the idea that approach-related and avoidance-related appetitive traits are systematically (and oppositely) related to adiposity, and not exclusively associated with obesity. Early assessment of these traits could be used as indicators of susceptibility to weight gain.

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