London: Obese infants consume larger meals but do not eat more frequently than healthy toddlers, a new study has found. Hayley Syrad from University of London in the UK and colleagues used parent- reported intake for 2564 children aged 4-18 months to study meal size and meal frequency in relation to weight.
They found that overweight children were consuming larger meals than the healthy weight children (141 calories versus 130 calories), but they were not eating any more frequently throughout the course of the day. For every extra 24 calories consumed during each meal, there was a 9 per cent increased risk of overweight/obesity, researchers said.
The overweight children appeared to be consuming more calories than the healthy weight children by eating larger portions of the same types of foods (160 grammes versus 146 grammes), because there was no difference in the energy density of the meals consumed between overweight and healthy weight children, they said.
“Larger portions rather than eating more often may be a risk factor for the development of childhood overweight in early life,” researchers said. “Although the difference in average meal size between the overweight and healthy weight children seems small (11 calories, perhaps an extra spoonful of baked beans with a meal) children are eating on average 5 times per day so the difference over the course of a week is considerable,” they said.
An excess of 11 calories per meal equates to an extra 56 calories per day, an extra 393 calories per week, and an extra 1703 calories per month. This small extra intake each meal means that overweight children are consuming approximately 2 extra days’ worth of energy each month, researchers said.