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Added sugars may affect heart health risk factors in children
Last week I shared a meta-analysis that concluded that higher levels of sugar intake in an adult's diet were "strongly associated with higher triglycerides, total as well as LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), and blood pressure." While that study was interested intotal sugars and not strictly added sugars, this week's study suggests that those effects are not limited to adults.

Grandparents also important to children's weight
The obesity epidemic is not limited to Western countries; China's growing economic development has had its impact on that country's waistline, as well. Just as in Western countries, children who are overweight or obese in China are likely to become overweight or obese adults, with all the attendant health risks. 

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.


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Choose the smaller pieces

A couple of months ago I reported on a study that showed, among other things, that when small children are served a larger portion size they'll eat more, even though they will generally eat about the same amount by weight at any given meal.

Here's another interesting look at portion sizes and kids. Researchers in Belgium noted that for adults, when food items come in individual pieces (think cubes of cheese) rather than an amorphous mass (think mashed potatoes or oatmeal) they will tend to eat the same number of pieces regardless of the size of the pieces. This research has been limited to items typically eaten at meals and not foods usually eaten as snacks, however. Would children, they wondered, be influenced more by the amount of food they were presented, or the number of pieces of that food (J Nutr Ed Beh 2012;44(3):251-255)?

Local schoolchildren in grades 1 and 6 were recruited (with the consent of their parents) to participate in the study. At their usual afternoon snack time the children were given a set weight of chocolate cookie wafers (rectangular items) in amounts large enough that each child was unlikely to want more. This was done on two occasions: one afternoon the child received their cookies in the standard cookie size, then on another afternoon the child's cookies were cut in half - so they had double the number of cookies (but still the same amount by weight).

The researchers were able to measure the number of cookies the child ate (whether large or small pieces) as well as determining how many calories of those cookies the child ate. They then compared the number and calories when the cookies were large to when the cookies were small.

Interestingly, they found that children eating the smaller cookies ate less by weight even though they ate a greater number of the cookies. Those eating the larger cookies ended up consuming a greater number of calories even though they ate fewer cookies.

What this means for you

This is another strategy you can use for yourself as well as your kids. Choose the smaller pieces of whatever you're eating or cut your (or your kids') food in smaller pieces. You're likely to eat less and be equally satisfied.

First posted: June 13, 2012