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Soothing infants with food focus of childhood obesity study
Date:2/10/2010

ty and regulation, and a variety of interviews including one conducted by Penn State's Diet Assessment Center, which will examine the food environment -- meal location, the context in which food is eaten -- whether the child was crying or fell asleep after eating and child feeding practices -- whether food was offered to soothe the child.

Stifter will also look at the brain's natural reward system, which releases dopamine into the brain, producing a feeling of pleasure.

"Dopamine basically makes you want more of something," says Stifter.

Dopamine in the brain is associated with nicotine, alcohol and other addictions. Stifter and her colleagues will consider food as the object of an addiction for certain individuals. They will draw upon previous research pinpointing a set of genes that determine a person's dopamine system activity. Certain individuals may be genetically predisposed to be more sensitive to their brain's reward system.

"We are hypothesizing that the parenting practice of feeding to soothe, or the use of food to soothe infant distress not related to hunger, may interfere with the development of the ability to read internal cues of hunger and fullness, which, in certain children with sensitive dopamine systems, may lead to increased energy intake, rapid weight gain in infancy, and subsequent childhood obesity," said Stifter.

No previous studies have examined parent feeding style in infancy and genetics as precursors to childhood obesity.


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Contact: A'ndrea Elyse Messer
aem1@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert

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