The relationship between appetite and food preferences in British and Australian children

Background:
Appetitive traits and food preferences are key determinants of children’s eating patterns but it is unclear how these behaviours relate to one another. This study explores relationships between appetitive traits and preferences for fruits and vegetables, and energy dense, nutrient poor (noncore) foods in two distinct samples of Australian and British preschool children.
Methods:
This study reports secondary analyses of data from families participating in the British GEMINI cohort study (n = 1044) and the control arm of the Australian NOURISH RCT (n = 167). Food preferences were assessed by parent-completed questionnaire when children were aged 3–4 years and grouped into three categories; vegetables, fruits and noncore foods. Appetitive traits; enjoyment of food, food responsiveness, satiety responsiveness, slowness in eating, and food fussiness were measured using the Children’s Eating Behaviour Questionnaire when children were 16 months (GEMINI) or 3–4 years (NOURISH). Relationships between appetitive traits and food preferences were explored using adjusted linear regression analyses that controlled for demographic and anthropometric covariates.
Results:
Vegetable liking was positively associated with enjoyment of food (GEMINI; β = 0.20 ± 0.03, p < 0.001, NOURISH; β = 0.43 ± 0.07, p < 0.001) and negatively related to satiety responsiveness (GEMINI; β = -0.19 ± 0.03, p < 0.001, NOURISH; β = -0.34 ± 0.08, p < 0.001), slowness in eating (GEMINI; β = -0.10 ± 0.03, p = 0.002, NOURISH; β = -0.30 ± 0.08, p < 0.001) and food fussiness (GEMINI; β = −0.30 ± 0.03, p < 0.001, NOURISH; β = -0.60 ± 0.06, p < 0.001). Fruit liking was positively associated with enjoyment of food (GEMINI; β = 0.18 ± 0.03, p < 0.001, NOURISH; β = 0.36 ± 0.08, p < 0.001), and negatively associated with satiety responsiveness (GEMINI; β = −0.13 ± 0.03, p < 0.001, NOURISH; β = −0.24 ± 0.08, p = 0.003), food fussiness (GEMINI; β = -0.26 ± 0.03, p < 0.001, NOURISH; β = −0.51 ± 0.07, p < 0.001) and slowness in eating (GEMINI only; β = -0.09 ± 0.03, p = 0.005). Food responsiveness was unrelated to liking for fruits or vegetables in either sample but was positively associated with noncore food preference (GEMINI; β = 0.10 ± 0.03, p = 0.001, NOURISH; β = 0.21 ± 0.08, p = 0.010).
Conclusion:
Appetitive traits linked with lower obesity risk were related to lower liking for fruits and vegetables, while food responsiveness, a trait linked with greater risk of overweight, was uniquely associated with higher liking for noncore foods.

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