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Novel scale correlates children’s snacking behaviors with external food cues

May 15, 2019
Science Daily

One in four preschool-age children in the U.S. have overweight or obesity, putting them at risk for multiple chronic health problems including cancer. Early and consistent exposure to such food cues may promote conditioned eating, where the cue itself becomes a signal to eat. Children may then learn to eat by exposure to external cues rather than listing to their internal, biological signals of hunger.

Psychometric scales for adults and children ages 7-12 have previously been created to measure responses to external food cues such as desire to eat when walking past a candy store or temptation when food is being prepared. However, to date, no scale exists that specifically addresses responsiveness to external cues, such as visual, environmental or social cues, in contemporary preschool-age children.

A Dartmouth research team led by Jennifer Emond, MS, PhD aimed to extend previous research and develop a brief, parent-reported scale to measure external food cue responsiveness for preschool-age children that could be employed easily in their natural environments. “A scale to specifically measure responsiveness to external foods is important to understand how aspects of the current obesogenic environment, including exposure to food marketing, may impact a young child’s obesity risk,” says Emond. Their study, “Measurement of external food cue responsiveness in preschool-age children: Preliminary evidence for the use of the external food cue responsiveness scale” is newly published in the journal, Appetite.