Children can learn to control their powerful sweets cravings: study

Posted on October 11, 2014

For children, the lure of cookies and fast food is distinctly more powerful than for adolescents and adults, although children's cognitive wiring is well suited to train such cravings, according to researchers hailing principally from Columbia University.

"These findings are important because they suggest that we may have another tool in our toolbox to combat childhood obesity," says psychological scientist and lead researcher Jennifer A. Silvers, a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia University in the laboratory of Professor Kevin Ochsner.

Indeed, the study is unique because other research in the area has pointed the finger at advertising and the ready availability of sweets and high-fat foods, focusing more on an environment that is unlikely to change rather than asking if the individual child is capable of overcoming the influence.

Silvers and her colleagues worked with 105 young people between the ages of six and 23, and took MRI scans of their brains while showing them images of various unhealthy alimentary indulgences.

During part of the viewing, researchers told participants to imagine the food was there in front of them, and told them they could smell it, taste it and almost swallow it.

The rest of the time, they told their subjects to consider the food far away and to focus on its visual appearance pertaining to shape and color rather than imagining the taste.

After gauging the participants' levels of cravings, researchers concluded that the visual focalization in which they were instructed not to consider the potential taste reduced cravings by 16 percent, indicating that it could be a cognitive strategy for self-discipline.

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Category(s):Child Development, Eating Disorders

Source material from CTV News