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Kids Who Lack Self-Control May Be Prone to Weight Gain
Date:4/6/2009

New research finds that need for instant gratification might play a part

MONDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- Small children who can't keep their hands out of the cookie jar -- in other words, those who have more difficulty delaying gratification -- appear more likely to be overweight as they get older.

The same seems true of young children who are unable to stay away from enticing toys.

It's unclear whether these findings, from two studies published in the April issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, represent a "nature" or "nurture" effect, yet they could still result in positive behavioral changes to help stem the current obesity epidemic, experts said.

"There are so few studies that track obesity development over time, so the fact that they were able to capture something early in obesity development and track it over time into middle childhood is rare," said Meg H. Zeller, assistant professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

"The fact that it's something behavioral is one of the highlights, because it gives you something to work with. You've identified something that is modifiable," added Zeller, who was not involved with the studies.

Previous studies have linked adult weight problems -- and accompanying problems such as heart disease and diabetes -- with weight issues earlier in life, although few had looked at a possible association with the ability to delay gratification.

For the new study, 805 children 4 years old were put in a room by themselves with one large plate and one small plate of candy, animal crackers or pretzels. They were told they could eat the larger plate if they waited for an adult to return. If they couldn't wait, they could ring a bill to summon the adult.

Forty-seven percent of the participants "failed" the test either by ringing the bell or by just jumping into the goodies.

Those who faile
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