Letting your child pick their snack may help you eat better, study suggests

Giving in to your kid’s desire for an unhealthy snack may improve your own eating choices, a new University of Alberta study shows.

The research, published in Appetite, showed that parents and other adult caregivers such as babysitters tended to make better food choices for themselves if they accommodated the youngster’s request for a particular snack — whether that snack was healthy or not.

It was a “striking finding” that shows the psychological impacts of decision-making, said lead researcher Utku Akkoc, a lecturer in the Alberta School of Business and a consumer behaviour expert who did the study for his PhD.

Through a series of experiments and a field study, Akkoc, along with co-author and U of A business professor Robert Fisher, measured how powerful caregivers felt and what foods they consumed after making decisions in various scenarios, such as when they packed a treat the child had asked for in a school lunch.

Caregivers who listened to their children’s preferences ate a lower number of unhealthy foods themselves. In one experiment, participants who granted a child’s snack request ate on average 2.7 fewer unhealthy snacks and 1.9 more healthy snacks than those who imposed their own preferences on the child.

The reason likely lies in how the caregivers feel about their decision, Akkoc said.

“Our theory is that moms who accommodate the child’s preferences against their better judgment would end up feeling less powerful, compared to moms who successfully impose their own food choices on their children. This happens because accommodation involves a passive and less stressful willingness to yield to the child. When people feel less powerful, they make more inhibited, healthier choices like a dieter would.”

By contrast, adults imposing their own choices involves “an active exercise of persuasion in trying to get the child to eat that healthy fruit salad, not a piece of chocolate cake. You feel powerful after that, because you succeeded, and you feel licensed to reward yourself with treats,” Akkoc said, noting that the same was also true for caregivers who successfully imposed unhealthy food choices on their child.

The research also showed the caregivers were influenced in their personal choices if they were eating together with their child, consuming the same healthy or unhealthy food.

“We believe it’s because people would feel hypocritical if they ate cake in front of a child that’s made to eat fruit,” Akkoc said.

The findings offer an “effective, simple recipe” in tackling the problems of poor eating and obesity, Akkoc believes.

“It shows some ways parents and other adults can increase their own healthy eating by dining together with their children after making healthy choices for them,” he said.

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Materials provided by University of Alberta. Original written by Bev Betkowski. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Walnuts may slow cognitive decline in at-risk elderly

Eating walnuts may help slow cognitive decline in at-risk groups of the elderly population, according to a study conducted by researchers in California and Spain.

The Walnuts and Healthy Aging Study, published this month in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that walnut consumption by healthy, elderly adults had little effect on cognitive function over two years, but it had greater effect on elderly adults who had smoked more and had a lower baseline neuropsychological test scores.

The study examined nearly 640 free-living elders in Loma Linda, California, USA, and in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. For two years, the test group included walnuts in their daily diet, and the control group abstained from walnuts.

Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols, which have previously been found to counteract oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which are drivers of cognitive decline.

Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Loma Linda University School of Public Health and the study’s principal investigator, said this was the largest and most well-controlled trial ever conducted on the effects of nuts on cognition.

“While this was a minor result, it could lead to better outcomes when conducted over longer periods of time,” Sabaté said. “Further investigation is definitely warranted based on our findings, especially for disadvantaged populations, who may have the most to gain from incorporating walnuts and other nuts into their diet.”

Sabaté and his research team at Loma Linda University were the first to discover the cholesterol-lowering effect of nut consumption — specifically walnuts — with lowering blood cholesterol. Findings were first published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993.

Subsequently, findings from Loma Linda University researchers have linked nut consumption to lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.

The Walnuts and Healthy Aging Study was funded by a grant from the California Walnut Commission, which had no input in the study design, data collection, analyses, or writing and submission of the manuscript.

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Materials provided by Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center. Original written by Ansel Oliver. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


What it’s like to live without a sense of smell

New research reveals the impact of smell loss. As many as one in 20 people live without smell. But until now there has been little research into the range of emotional and practical impacts it causes. The new study finds that almost every aspect of life is disrupted – from everyday concerns about personal hygiene to a loss of sexual intimacy and the break-down of personal relationships. Source

Ready-to-eat cereal fortification: a modelling study on the impact of changing ready-to-eat cereal fortification levels on population intake of nutrients

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