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Parental food preferences are associated with body weight disturbance in preschool children
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Neuroscience, Functional Pharmacology.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Women's and Children's Health.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Neuroscience, Functional Pharmacology.
Department of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes, Karolinska University Hospital, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm.
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Parental factors such as stress induced by parenting and certain food preferences are suspected to promote obesity in preschool children. In this context, especially the intake of dietary fat is assumed to play a key role for the children’s risk to become obese. Here we analyzed eating behaviors in parents of 3-year-olds in order to identify parental traits that are associated with body weight in these children. We also tested for possible interactions between psychosocial factors such as stress induced by parenting and parental food cravings. Questionnaires were sent out to 1300 parents whose children’s body weight was measured during ambulatory medical care visits (parental response rate 70.4%). Using the Food Craving Inventory scale allowed examining parental preferences for the following food categories:  high-fat/high-protein, sweets, carbohydrates, and fast food. Psychosocial stress caused by parenting was assessed with the Swedish Parenthood Stress Questionnaire (SPSQ). Our main finding was that the parental preference for foods rich in high-fat/high-protein nutrients displayed an inverse U-shaped function to the children’s body weight such that low preference for this category was associated with both overweight and underweight in offspring. Parental preference for sweet-foods were associated with higher odds for developing overweight in early childhood. The level of parental food preferences was significantly modulated by stress induced by parenting. In conclusion, we show that parental food preference is affected by stress and is associated with the body weight status of their children. The results suggest that parental intake of high-fat/high-protein foods protects against weight disturbances in preschool children.

URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-119472OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-119472DiVA: diva2:300942
Available from: 2010-03-01 Created: 2010-02-25 Last updated: 2010-03-01
In thesis
1. From Food Preference to Craving: Behavioural Traits and Molecular Mechanisms
Open this publication in new window or tab >>From Food Preference to Craving: Behavioural Traits and Molecular Mechanisms
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Preference for palatable and energy-dense foods may be a risk factor for body weight gain and has both genetic and environmental components. Once obesity develops in an individual, weight loss is difficult to achieve. Indeed, obesity is often characterized by repeated attempts to reduce the overconsumption of energy-dense foods, followed by food craving and relapse to overconsumption. Relapse and loss of control over intake are observed also in drug addicts, and it has been shown that obesity and drug addiction not only share behavioural features but also neural circuitry, e.g. the mesolimbic dopamine pathway. In this thesis, we sought to investigate the mechanisms related to food preferences and craving using animal models previously used in addiction research.

The risk of gaining weight may implicate behavioural traits and emotional states. We showed in rats that a risk-taking behavioural profile was associated both with increased preference for a high-fat (HF) diet and with increased motivational response to a palatable high-sucrose (HS) diet. Hypothalamic urocortin 2 expression was associated with the preference for the HF diet. We also tested the hypothesis that consumption of HS and HF diets separately or provided simultaneously (HFHS) affect anxiety-like behaviour and locomotion.

Furthermore, we showed that withdrawal from HFHS food affects diet-induced obesity-prone (OP) and obesity-resistant (OR) animals differently. OP animals had increased motivation (craving) for HS food pellets as measured by the operant self-administration technique during withdrawal. Dopamine receptor expression in the striatum differed between OP and OR animals both at access to HFHS and during withdrawal. This strongly implicates dopaminergic signaling in the OP phenotype.

In humans, food preferences may be monitored using questionnaires. We analyzed food preference data from parents of preschool children, and identified an inverse association of parental preference for high-fat high-protein food and overweight in children.

In conclusion, we have employed animal models previously used in the addiction field to identify molecular mechanisms related both to food preference and vulnerability to obesity, and to food craving associated with withdrawal from palatable food. These findings add to our current understanding of obesity.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2010. 93 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 526
Obesity, Reward, Food preferences, Dietary fats, Dietary carbohydrates, Anxiety, Dopamine, Craving, Operant self-administration
National Category
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-119779 (URN)978-91-554-7734-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-04-10, B42, BMC, Husargatan 3, Uppsala, 09:00 (English)
Available from: 2010-03-19 Created: 2010-03-01 Last updated: 2010-03-19Bibliographically approved

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