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Nonfood environment protects infants against overconsumption, obesity

04 Nov 2020

A nonfood environment during early infancy helps control the appetitive drive for overconsumption and prevent obesity development, according to a recent study.

“Individual differences in appetitive traits present in the first few weeks of life,” the authors said, adding that infants with a greater food reinforcement ratio (FRR) are at higher risk of obesity.

This study examined the association of appetitive traits with food and nonfood reinforcement of infants aged 9–18 mo and whether food and nonfood reinforcement mediated the relation between appetitive traits and weight-for-length z-score (zWFL).

The authors performed a secondary data analysis by combining four different cohorts of infants (n=143) who had complete data on the food/nonfood reinforcement task, Baby Eating Behavior Questionnaire, and anthropometrics and demographics assessments.

The following nonfood reinforcers were used for the nonfood portion of the task: video (DVD; n=27), playing with bubbles (Bubbles; n=67), and music accompanied by instruments (Music; n=49). For the food portion of the task, the infant’s favourite food was used.

General appetite was positively associated with FRR and zWDL but negatively associated with nonfood reinforcement. Moreover, satiety responsiveness was negatively associated with food reinforcement, FRR, and zWFL.

In mediational analysis, the effects of general appetite on zWFL were mediated by FRR (indirect effect, 0.100, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.041–0.187) and nonfood reinforcement (indirect effect, 0.076, 95 percent CI, 0.025–0.156).

In addition, a mediating effect of FRR was observed on the association between satiety responsiveness and zWFL (indirect effect, –0.097, 95 percent CI, –0.204 to –0.026).

“Our work contributes to the mechanistic understanding of the ontogeny of obesity development early in life among individuals who are born with appetitive drive for overconsumption,” the authors said.

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