It’s something people have often dreamed of – an ‘excuse’, so to speak, to explain their cravings and need to consume more energy-dense food. This is junk food, that has more calories per weight. And a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reports that children with a particular gene variant tend to eat more of it, although their metabolism is not altered.
Researchers stress that this is not an absolute guarantee that kids with this gene are more likely drawn to junk food, but rather a trait that is common. Others, including Dr. Goutham Rao at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, were interested in the study’s findings that hint at behavior, because that is something that can be changed.
The study showed the number of calories consumed and measured what children ate on three different occasions when provided a variety of options to eat, such as ham, cheese, raisins, grapes, cucumber, carrots, chocolate, water, orange juice, and bread rolls. Those kids with the variant gene consumed about 100 more calories – per meal – even though the actual weight of the food was nearly the same. Not impressed? Consider that the number of extra calories per meal would translate to an additional pound of weight nearly every two weeks.
Dr. Rao stressed the message to take from this study is that prevention, as we have focused on a lot in the past years, is extremely important. He recommends for parents to intervene if kids have a “predilection for seeking junk food. The emphasis should be on portion control.” He also reminds us that avoiding or restricting food completely gives the message that there’s something special about a food, which leads both kids and adults to overindulge when they do have access to the food. So instead of using this as an excuse – “I inherited my love of junk food” – let’s think of this as another motivation to keep portion control as an integral part of the healthy lifestyle we are all aiming to achieve!