Overweight children overeat after exposure to food cues

Eat Behav. 2003 Aug;4(2):197-209. doi: 10.1016/S1471-0153(03)00011-4.


Overweight is becoming more common in children, but we know nearly nothing about the eating behavior of overweight children. Learning theory predicts that overeating follows from learned associations between the smell and taste of palatable food on the one hand and intake on the other hand. It was tested whether overweight children overeat after confrontation to these cues. They indeed failed to regulate food intake after both the exposure to the intense smell of tasty food (without eating it) and after eating a small preload of appetizing food, whereas normal-weight children decreased their intake after both cues. Overweight children are thus more vulnerable to triggers of overeating. Their overeating was not related to psychological factors like mood, body esteem, and a restrained eating style, but it was related to cue-elicited salivation flow. Apart from supporting the cue reactivity model of overeating, the data point to an interesting satiety phenomenon in normal eaters after prolonged and intense smelling palatable food without eating it.