The researchers found that having change in the FTO gene was associated with increased weight and body-mass index scores.
From the larger group, the researchers studied the eating habits of 97 children. They also measured how much energy these children expended, and found no difference in the resting energy expenditure rate for kids with the genetic change compared to those without it.
Where they did find a difference, however, was in the number of calories consumed. The children were given a variety of options to eat, such as ham, cheese, raisins, grapes, cucumber, carrots, chocolate, water, orange juice and bread rolls. The researchers measured what the children ate on three different occasions.
Children with the variant gene consumed about 100 calories more per meal, even though the weight of the food consumed was nearly the same. While 100 calories may not seem like much, that many extra calories per meal would translate to an extra pound of weight about every 12 days.
"These findings do not change the dietary and lifestyle advice to people, which would be to eat relatively healthily and take regular exercise," said Palmer. "But, these findings do also reinforce the hypothesis that the increase in obesity seen in children over recent years may be largely attributable to the widespread availability of inexpensive and highly energy-dense foods, which may be more attractive to the large proportion of the population who carry this genetic variant," he noted.
Rao said the important message from this study is that prevention is key. "If you have a child, whether they're overweight or not, if they have a predilection for seeking junk food, you need to intervene. The emphasis should be on portion control. If you restrict a food completely, the message children get is that there's something
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