The Jakarta Post
Children who emotionally eat might have learned the habit instead of inheriting it genetically, a study found. (Shutterstock/stockcreations)
Constantly reaching for a snack in times of stress or sadness might be an unhealthy habit learned in childhood, according to a new study reported by the Independent.
Research conducted by University College London (UCL) found that children who regularly emotionally eat learned the habit instead of inheriting it genetically, as the main cause was parents giving their children food to make them feel better.
The study, which was published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, looked at 398 4-year-old British twins. Half of them came from families with obese parents and half from parents with a healthy weight.
The researchers compared reports of the children’s eating habits and found that there was little difference between identical and fraternal twins regarding rates of emotional eating. This then suggests that emotional eating has very little relation to one’s genes.
“Experiencing stress and negative emotions can have a different effect on appetite for different people,” said Dr. Moritz Herle, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, who co-led the research.
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“Some crave their favorite snack, whereas others lose their desire to eat altogether when feeling stressed or sad. This study supports our previous findings suggesting that children’s emotional over- and under-eating are mostly influenced by environmental factors.”
Researchers also explained that emotional eating in childhood could become a habit held throughout one’s life, which could then lead to obesity or eating disorders.
Dr. Clare Llewellyn of UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health, explained, “We actually don't know a great deal about the physical and mental health consequences of emotional eating in childhood, because studies that track those children over many years haven’t been done.”
“Understanding how these tendencies develop is crucial because it helps researchers to give advice about how to prevent or change them, and where to focus future research.” (sul/wng)