They say you are what you eat, but, at the same time, they also say you are the company you keep. A new study comes to show that eating patterns in children and teens can easily be altered by their friends, which means a heavier peer will make it OK and acceptable for the youngster in question to eat more as well. However, this mostly applies to kids who already have some sort of weight issue, as physorg
Researchers have established that, in the case of an overweight teen, the friends s/he surrounds herself/himself with are crucial in terms of whether s/he will be losing any weight in the future. If peers are heavier than normal, then the teen too will start piling on the pounds, simply because it suddenly becomes acceptable for s/he to eat more and inhibitions no longer fit in.
Therefore, a solution to tackling the childhood and adolescence obesity would be better “filtering” the friends the child or teen in question keeps.
“These results are important, considering the role of friends as agents of change in childhood and adolescence. Overweight children are more likely to find food more reinforcing than non-overweight youth. Being in the company of overweight peers may give them the permission to eat more or may decrease their inhibitions, increasing what are seen as the norms of appropriate eating, or how much one should eat.” Sarah Salvy, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Behavioral Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, says for the aforementioned medical publication.
Researchers came to the conclusion that overweight people were more easily influenced in terms of their eating patterns than those with normal weight after pairing kids of all sizes together. All children in the study were asked to play with an assigned partner, while they could also eat as much as they wanted from their own bowls containing either low- or high-calorie foods. At the end of the study, researchers noted normal-weight people ate less when paired with a stranger, as opposed to a friend. Oppositely, heavier children ate more only when the partner was also heavier, no matter if they knew him/her or not.
“These findings indicate that both overweight and normal weight participants eating with a friend ate significantly more than did participants eating in the presence of an unfamiliar peer. These results are consistent with research in adults, which showed that eating among friends and family is distinctly different than eating among strangers. Given the impact of friends on eating behavior, it appears that if we hope to change the growing obesity epidemic among children, friends and family need to be involved.” Salvy explains for physorg.