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Pediatr Res. 2012 Mar;71(3):293-8. doi: 10.1038/pr.2011.39. Epub 2012 Jan 25.

Preliminary evidence for an impulsivity-based thrifty eating phenotype.

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  • 1Núcleo de Estudos da Saúde da Criança e do Adolescente, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil.



Low birth weight is associated with obesity and an increased risk for metabolic/cardiovascular diseases in later life.


The results of the snack delay test, which encompassed four distinct trials, indicated that the gender × intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) × trial interaction was a predictor of the ability to delay the food reward (P = 0.002). Among children with normal birth weights, girls showed a greater ability to delay food rewards than did boys (P = 0.014).In contrast, among children with IUGR, there was no such differential ability between girls and boys. Furthermore, in girls, impulsive responding predicted both increased consumption of palatable fat (P = 0.007) and higher BMIs (P = 0.020) at 48 mo of age, although there was no such association with BMI at 36 mo.


In girls, the quality of fetal growth may contribute to impulsive eating, which may promote an increased intake of fats and consequently higher BMIs. As with the original thrifty phenotype, such a mechanism would be adaptive when food supplies are sparse, but would be problematic in societies with ample access to calorically rich foods.


We examined whether the quality of intrauterine growth programs obesogenic eating behaviors, by investigating (i) the relationship between birth weight and impulsive eating in 3-year-old children (using the snack delay test), and (ii) whether impulsive eating predicts fat intake and/or BMI at 4 years of age (using a laboratory-based test meal).

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