Research News

Studying Childhood Obesity and Maternal-Child Feeding

Ihuoma Eneli, MD, MS, Associate Director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children's Hospital, has been awarded a pilot project for community engagement research from The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science. She has partnered with OSU Extension and the YMCA to study feeding dynamics between mothers and their children.

Eneli is studying the dynamics of feeding to better understand the prevalence of childhood obesity. The rates of childhood obesity are increasing; currently 10.3% of preschoolers are obese.

“There has been an epidemic of childhood obesity. We have seen increasing rates in young children, the minority population, and low-income populations,” said Eneli.

This study will look at how mothers feed children aged two to five, if certain feeding dynamics create overweight children, and which practices will help them from becoming overweight. Using the two to five age group increases the chances of a positive outcome by targeting children while they are still young.

The main focus will be to teach parents and children to use internal cues to regulate food intake. Newborns use these internal cues to stop eating when they become full, as a child grows older they may ignore these cues because of external influences. Certain practices, such as excessively restrictive behavior exhibited by the parents, may cause the child to eat in the absence of hunger. Pressure to eat certain foods can also affect a child’s eating habits.

Working with mothers was important for Eneli to understand the relationship between mother and child when it comes to feeding, and also to teach them which practices will help with obesity prevention. Feedback from this study will help the research team know which practices are feasible for parents and professionals to use.

The pilot grant will be used to build a sustainable community infrastructure for obesity prevention. Eneli has applied for an NIH grant to pursue further research. The next step is to find a group of children aged two to five and apply the intervention they have created. They will examine whether the invention has helped the children learn to self-regulate their energy intake using standardized laboratory tests. The research team plans to follow-up with these participants in the long term to evaluate the impact of the intervention on the child’s weight.

“Our goal really is to test this program for prevention, preventing childhood obesity or helping to avoid childhood obesity,” said Eneli.

By Samantha Smith

Learn about more Center for Clinical and Translational Science Grant Awardees

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