Childhood obesity is becoming an epidemic in the United States. More children are obese now than ever before. This puts them at risk for numerous negative psychological and physical health outcomes. Obese children are more likely to be victims of bullying than their non-obese peers. They also have higher levels of anxiety, depression, and sadness. Additionally, obesity can increase the risk for health problems such as cardiac disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Understanding the factors that predict unhealthy eating behaviors in children is essential for combating this national crisis that is affecting the future of our country.
Anna Vannucci of the Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology and the Program in Developmental Endocrinology and Genetics at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland wanted to find out if eating behaviors, specifically, emotional eating or eating in the absence of hunger, could be linked to psychological issues that when coupled together, increase the risk for obesity. Vannucci assessed 411 children between the ages of 8 and 18 and looked at their patterns of disinhibited eating. She looked at both objective and subjective binge eating (OBE, SBE), emotional eating (EE), eating absent of being hungry (EAH), a combination of EE and EAH, and non-disinhibited eating behavior (No-DE). Vannucci recorded the behaviors of the participants before they ate two separate meals.
She found that only 64 of the participants fell into the No-DE group. Nearly half of the participants, or 172 of them, were categorized as EE-EAH. The remaining three groups, OBE, SBE and EE, were made up of approximately 55 participants each. Vannucci discovered that SBE and OBE participants had more trait anxiety and disordered eating behaviors than the other groups. These groups, as well as the EE group, also had the highest levels of depression. She also found that OBE and SBE participants ate more carbohydrates than protein while the SBE ate the lowest amount of calories in all. However, they had the highest fat mass percentage of all the groups. Overall, Vannucci believes that her findings show that EAH alone is not cause for alarm and may not increase risk for obesity. However, when coupled with EE it could pose a significant risk. “Additionally,” said Vannucci, “High levels of emotional eating alone may signal depressive symptomatology and a unique eating pattern.”
Vannucci, A., Tanofsky-Kraff, M., Crosby, R. D., Ranzenhofer, L. M., Shomaker, L. B., Field, S. E., Mooreville, M., Reina, S. A., Kozlosky, M., Yanovski, S. Z., and Yanovski, J. A. (2012). Latent profile analysis to determine the typology of disinhibited eating behaviors in children and adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031209
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.