A new, in depth study of children and teenagers struggling with weight issues highlights that their eating habits were poor, and sugary drink consumption was at concerning volumes on a daily basis in many.
Eating habits such as comfort eating and eating large amounts of food were worryingly common, and the study revealed clear differences in diet between young people living with obesity and national averages.
The 239 tamariki in the study were assessed when they enrolled in a community-based 12-month intervention programme called Whānau Pakari. Aged 4-16, the participants had BMIs in the clinically overweight or obese range, and many had weight related health problems. Māori and Pakeha each made up 45 percent of the group, with the remaining 10 percent from other ethnicities.
- Two-thirds (67 percent) of participants experienced excessive hunger and ate large amounts of food
- Half didn’t feel full after a meal
- Almost two-thirds (62 percent) reported comfort eating
- Children ate 3.5 servings per day of fruit and vegetables on average, markedly below the recommended five daily servings
- Children were not eating breakfast every day
The study was a collaboration between the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland, Taranaki District Health Board, and Sport Taranaki, with funding from the Health Research Council.
“This study highlighted that there are lots of factors affecting eating behaviour in these children,” says Dr Yvonne Anderson, Liggins Institute researcher, Taranaki paediatrician and co-author of the study.
“As health professionals, when we see children with weight issues, we need to address the psychological dimensions of their eating.”
Researchers also found that many of the children and adolescents were drinking sweet drinks on a daily basis (a median volume of 250ml across the group).