An interesting new study came out of Canada this week. Albeit not surprising, it was discovered that feeding children diet and/or low calorie food and drinks can actually be a catalyst for weight gain later on down the road. How?
Researchers believe children brought up on low-calorie foods and drinks are more likely to over-indulge. They believe consuming diet versions of foods naturally higher in calories can actually make children’s bodies associate certain tastes with a lower in take of calories.
What happens is, children may overeat because their bodies think more food is needed to meet their energy requirements. Lead researcher Dr. David Pierce, from Canada’s University of Alberta, proposes keeping all diet food and drinks away from children.
"The use of diet food and drinks from an early age into adulthood may induce over-eating and gradual weight gain through the taste conditioning process described," he said. "Based on what we’ve learned, it is better for children to eat healthy, well-balanced diets with sufficient calories for their daily activities rather than low-calorie snacks or meals."
The study, involving rats, found both lean and obese youngsters fed diet foods over ate during regular meals. However, the older adolescent rats, which were also fed diet substitutes didn’t.
"Parents and health professionals should be made aware of this and know that the old-fashioned ways to keep children fit and healthy — well-balanced meals and regular exercise — are the best," Dr Pierce said.
Dr. Pierce acknowledges that extrapolating the findings from rats to children is a bit of a leap, but the studies may offer some interesting insights about how early taste conditioning can lead to overeating and even obesity. "Our findings suggest that in young children, diet foods may be a poor substitute for healthy foods with sufficient calories to meet energy needs."
Doesn’t seem like we need a bunch of rats to tell us that.