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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Location: Houston, Texas

2012 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The long-term objective of this project is to develop improved understanding of how genes influence obesity-related behaviors through experiences of food intake and physical activity, and whether these experiences mediate the gene to behavior relationships. We will focus on the following objectives that will be studied concurrently within the same experiments. Objective 1: Determine the extent to which relationships between appetite-related genetic factors and dietary intake are mediated by subjective feelings of hunger, satiety, and other psychosocial variables in children. Subobjective 1A: Generate a questionnaire that assesses food and physical activity related experiences in middle school students. Subobjective 1B: Test whether food and physical activity related experiences mediate the gene to dietary intake and physical activity relationships. Objective 2: Determine the extent to which relationships between activity-related genetic factors and physical activity are mediated by subjective feelings of enjoyment and related psychosocial variables in children.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Children's Nutrition Research Center researchers will conduct a literature review of possible experiential aspects of genes in regard to diet and physical activity (e.g., satiety, enjoyment of physical activity). Knowledge gained from these reviews will permit the researchers to conduct focus group discussions to generate items that reflect these possible gene experiences, and convert the statements to items in a questionnaire. Our scientific team will conduct cognitive interviewing with children to ensure the items are understood by the children. We will distribute the questionnaires for completion by large numbers of children on which to conduct the psychometric analyses. The accretion of adiposity among 3rd and 4th grade students over the summer will be studied. The above questionnaires and the genetic variables will be used, and associated relationships will be evaluated.

3. Progress Report:
During FY12, we were not able to get a grant application funded to study the genetics of satiety among Hispanic children. We did hold a conference on measuring energy balance related parenting with over 100 attendees from around the world. The 9 presentations and 4 working group reports will appear as a supplement in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. We published the results of the Wii Active Video Game randomized clinical trial in which we showed that children (9-11 year old) receiving two active video games did not increase their physical activity over a 12 week period as measured by objective measures. Over 700 media releases appeared about this study. We also published a descriptive book chapter and the alpha test results of one episode of a new videogame we are developing to enable parents to influence their preschool children to eat vegetables, when they do not want to. We have published several papers that provided input into the design of this video game.

4. Accomplishments
1. Videogame impact on children's diet and physical activity. Most interventions for changing children's diet and physical activity for obesity prevention have not been working, and those that have worked have had small effects that have rarely continued beyond the end of the program. Innovative methods are needed that appeal to children. Video games offer a technology that most children find enjoyable and can be used to deliver behavior change procedures and messages. A research study was conducted by Children's Nutrition Research Center researchers in Houston, Texas, with 10- to 12-year-old children to evaluate the impact of two videogames ("Escape from Diab" and "Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space") on children’s diet and physical activity practices. Our results indicated that children who played these games increased their consumption of fruit and vegetables by two-thirds serving per day, but did not increase their moderate to vigorous physical activity. This pilot study offers promise of helping children at risk of obesity to meaningfully change their lifestyle behaviors, and a more fully powered trial is needed to test the efficacy of these videogames.

2. Effect of active videogames on child physical activity. Most children are not getting adequate amounts of physical activity, which could protect against obesity. Active video games offer some promise of enabling children to increase their physical activity, especially those who live in unsafe neighborhoods and are not allowed to play outside. Children's Nutrition Research Center researchers in Houston, Texas, conducted a study with 9-to 12-year-old children above the 50th percentile Body Mass Index (BMI) to test the effect of receiving two active videogames versus two inactive videogames using a particular gaming system. There was no detectable increase in moderate to rigorous physical activity among children receiving the active videogames versus those receiving the inactive videogames. We concluded there was no public health value to having active video games on this particular gaming system (using a motion activated controller), however other systems (those that capture whole body movement without a motion controller) may provide different results.

3. Vegetable parenting game. Parents of preschoolers commonly complain that they can't get their child to eat vegetables. Researchers at the Children's Nutrition Research Center in Houston, Texas, have been conducting behavioral research on what parents can do to get their child to eat vegetables. Videogames for smart phones simulating parent-child interaction offer an easy, convenient way to train parents in effective vegetable parenting practices. We completed several formative studies, including a test of an episode from a videogame. Parents enjoyed it and gave many valuable suggestions for improvement. This study showed that videogames for smart phones can be an educational tool for parents to learn effective vegetable parenting practices.

Last Modified: 08/20/2017
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