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Health study: Infants with hearty appetites may be predisposed to obesity

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According to Fox News on Wednesday, infants with hearty appetites may be more likely to have a genetic predisposition to obesity.

In two linked studies, British researchers found that infants with greater appetites grew faster during a 15-month span, increasing their risk for obesity. Their desire to eat more might be genetic, the findings also suggested.

"Appetite is key and it would be sensible for parents to keep an eye on children who appear to be responding to food a lot more avidly than their peers," said lead researcher Clare Llewellyn, a lecturer in behavioral obesity research at the Health Behavior Research Center at University College London.

Llewellyn and her colleagues looked closely at 800 non-identical, same-sex twins born in the United Kingdom in 2007. From these, they followed a smaller number of pairs of twins to examine their food responsiveness (the urge to eat in response to the sight or smell of food) and satiety responsiveness (the desire to eat in response to the body's "fullness" triggers).

At 6 months old, the more food-responsive twin was, on average, 1.4 pounds heavier than the other twin, the researchers found. At 15 months, the more food-responsive twin was 2.1 pounds heavier. In addition, the less satiety-responsive twin was 1.4 pounds heavier than the other twin at 6 months, and 2 pounds heavier at 15 months.

Another study published in JAMA Pediatrics, also from researchers at UCL, studied whether low satiety responsiveness – a reduced urge to respond to the body’s ‘fullness’ signals – was linked to a genetic predisposition to obesity. Those researcher looked at 2,258 10-year-old children, researchers discovered that children with more genetic obesity risk variants were also more likely to have low satiety responsiveness.

The resolution of this apparent paradox may lie in the influence genes have on appetite, by reducing or not reducing the urge to eat in response to internal fullness signals, called satiety, Llewellyn said.

"Recent changes to the food environment have played a causal role in the increases in population weight," she said. As food becomes more readily available, people of all ages "who have inherited genes that make them feel less full are more likely to overeat and gain weight."

Parents should prevent excess weight gain by being strict about the foods available, keeping snacks hidden and restricting the amount of food their children eat, Llewellyn said.

For more about childhood obesity, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Emily Sutherlin is also the Pregnancy Examiner.

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