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Smart Phones and Childhood Obesity
Smart phones seem to be more and more common, even in school age children. And they don't appear to be limited to those children whose families are in the higher income brackets: those who are minorities or are in lower income brackets are just as likely to have a smart phone as their peers. With childhood obesity a major concern, researchers are investigating ways to make use of that ubiquitous technology to help treat or prevent obesity in children.

Eating healthy important for kids' weight, too
It's clear that what's known as a "Western" diet, comprised of high-fat foods, refined grains, and lots of sugar, is one of the primary causes of the rise in obesity levels throughout the Western world. Most studies of dietary patterns, however, are focused on adults and their diets while in adulthood.

Children's Weight and "Media Time"
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued national guidelines recommending that parents limit media time (including television or computer use) for their children over two years of age to just 1 to 2 hours per day of quality programming. While previous studies link childhood obesity with television and video watching, few of those studies actually focus on the AAP's recommended cut-off times. Nor have those studies sought to link computer use with childhood obesity.


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Impulsiveness may help explain childhood obesity

An Asian child smiling at her role in making pizza in a professional kitchen

A great deal of attention is being paid to childhood obesity. In the press there are many causes put forth including the rise of fast food, consumption of soda and decrease in activity. Many researchers are trying to identify what role personality might have in this issue. A group of researchers in the Netherlands looked at whether the spontaneous behavior traits of children might be a factor. (Eating Beh 2006:7:315-322)

They looked at a series of psychological tests that are designed to evaluate a child's level of impulsiveness as well as their level of hyperactivity. The 34 participants were taken from a group of obese children participating in a one year residential weight loss program. The group was compared to similar children in a local school. The tests found that obese children are more sensitive to rewards and are inclined to act more impulsively.

Interestingly, they found that the children who had difficulty with impulse control were not felt to be more hyperactive or impulsive during school hours.

The conclusions of the researchers is that obese children showed a "basic problem with impulse control" when compared to lean children. Their observations are in line with other studies showing that obese children prefer an immediate smaller reward over a larger reward that they might have to wait for.

What this means for you:

This study opens the door to more research on helping kids understand how to make choices in eating healthier. Understanding specific triggers of eating appears to be key in this effort.

First posted: December 8, 2006