Cue Intervention Reduces Cravings in Obese Children

Over one third of American children are overweight. The standard method of treating these children is behavioral therapy designed to provide the child and parents with education, nutritional knowledge, exercise techniques and the skills necessary to modify behaviors. Statistics have shown that these methods are effective and that one in three children responds positively to this type of treatment. However, two thirds of children do not. “It is possible that the effects of biological and environmental factors cannot be overcome through behavioral therapy or that people who are overweight or obese are a heterogeneous group who do not respond to a single treatment,” said Kerri N. Boutelle of the Department of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the University of California in San Diego. “Thus, it is imperative to develop additional approaches to treat overweight and obese children in order to maximize efficacy for a larger number of patients.”

Boutelle theorized that targeted approaches, focusing primarily on children who eat in the absence of hunger (EAH), might work better. EAH is a primary indicator for obesity, quadrupling the risk for obesity in children. “Based on these data, EAH appears to be a viable target for treatment, and reduction in this type of overeating in childhood could reduce caloric intake and influence current or future obesity status during youth,” said Boutelle. For her study, Boutelle enrolled 36 obese children between the ages of 8 and 12, in a cue exposure intervention called Volcravo, or children’s appetite awareness training (CAAT). After eight weeks, she found that both methods helped the children stabilize their weight, but Volcravo directly decreased episodes of EAH. “Our data suggest that Volcravo might be efficacious in the reduction of EAH, considering the significant reduction found at post-treatment and even 6 months post-treatment, but that children’s appetite awareness training CAAT had very little effect on EAH,” said Boutelle. She added, “This study demonstrates that training in food cue responsitivity and appetite awareness has the potential to be efficacious for reducing EAH and binge eating in children.”

Boutelle, Kerri N., Nancy L. Zucker, Carol B. Peterson, Sarah A. Rydell, Guy Cafri, and Lisa Harnack. “Two Novel Treatments to Reduce Overeating in Overweight Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 79.6 (2011): 759-71. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • steph


    December 20th, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    Knowledge is the key to controlling this addictive behavior! If you give them the nutritional info that they need to make wise choices, along with the power to enforce it then we can make the societal changes that need to be made to get thos epidemic under control. Our kids are literally suffering and eating themselves into an early grave! Without the right education this is a situation that is only going to get worse as time goes on.

  • jameson


    December 21st, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    I believe that “intervention” is the key term here. We let our kids make all of the decisons about what they eat and this is the kind of obese world that we end up with. They are children and are fairly ill equipped to make the wise decisions about nutrition that we as adults all know must be made. Maybe sometimes a fry would taste better than a bean, but that all has to be done in moderation. I know that there are kids out there who probably do not go a day without a happy meal or some kind of fats food fare. This kind of nonsense and madness has to stoop before we lose a whole generation or more to the obesity epidemic.

  • Bill


    December 22nd, 2011 at 6:04 AM

    This is not about cravings, this is about poor decision making. Also not having healthy choices given to them at home.

  • H.z


    December 23rd, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    See its not about kids overeating or eating when not hungry…it’s more about kids eating unhealthy food is the first thing that comes to my mind when I speak about this.

    really,how hard is it to keep your child away from such stuff when they are very young! and if they get into healthy foods early on chances are that they will stick to the practice!

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