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Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 May;79(5):844-50.

Familial aggregation of energy intake in children.

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  • 1Weight and Eating Disorders Program, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 3535 Market Street, 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3309, USA.



Uncompensated overnutrition promotes obesity, but the controls of children's eating behavior are poorly understood. Insights may be achieved by testing whether the eating patterns of children are associated with demographic variables or whether they aggregate among family members.


We tested whether children's total energy intake and macronutrient intake and their ability to compensate for earlier energy intake were associated with sociodemographic variables and anthropometric indexes. We also tested whether these behavioral traits aggregate among siblings.


Thirty-two sibling pairs aged 3-7 y consumed a multi-item lunch preceded by a low-energy (12.55 kJ) or high-energy (627.60 kJ) preload drink. Mixed-models regression tested the associations between children's energy intake, demographic variables, and anthropometric measures. An intraclass correlation coefficient quantified the family correlation of the measures of children's eating.


Children consumed significantly more total energy after consuming the low-energy preload ( +/- SD: 2237.39 +/- 1176.45 kJ) than after consuming the high-energy preload (1601.18 +/- 930.65 kJ). Compensation ability was unrelated to the children's age, sex, or ethnicity. Total energy and macronutrient intake, but not compensation propensity, were associated among siblings.


The familial association of total energy and macronutrient intakes, independent of anthropometric measures, suggests genetic or home environmental influences specific to these behaviors. Short-term energy compensation, although very accurate within this sample, showed no significant familial correlation.

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