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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Effects of age on children's intake of large and self-selected food portions

item Fisher, Jennifer

Submitted to: Obesity
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/11/2006
Publication Date: 2/1/2007
Citation: Fisher, J.O. 2007. Effects of age on children's intake of large and self-selected food portions. Obesity. 15(2):403-412.

Interpretive Summary: Large food portions promote children's energy intake at meals. However, the age at which children become susceptible to portion size has been debated. This study evaluated effects of age on intake of large and self-selected entree portions at a meal among children 2-9 years old. Results revealed that children consumed 29% more of the entree when its portion size was doubled and 13% more total energy at the meal. Effects of age were not observed. This study provides new evidence that children as young as two years of age are susceptible to the intake promoting effects of large food portions.

Technical Abstract: OBJECTIVE: Whether developmental periods exist in which children become particularly sensitive to environmental influences on eating is unclear. This research evaluated the effects of age on intake of large and self-selected portions among children 2 to 9 years of age. RESEARCH METHODS AND PROCEDURES: Seventy-five non-Hispanic white children 2 to 3, 5 to 6, and 8 to 9 years of age were seen at a dinner meal in reference, large, and self-selected portion size conditions in which the size of an entree was age-appropriate, doubled, and determined by the child, respectively. Weighed food intake data were collected. Entree bite size and bite frequency were assessed. Height and weight measurements were obtained. RESULTS: The effect of age on children's intake of the large portion was not significant. Entree consumption was 29% greater (p < 0.001) and meal energy intake was 13% greater (p < 0.01) in the large portion condition than in the reference condition. Increases in entree consumption were attributable to increases in average bite size (p < 0.001). Neither child weight nor maternal weight predicted children's intake of large portions. Self-selection resulted in decreased entree (p < 0.05) and meal energy (p < 0.01) only among those children who ate more when served the large portion. DISCUSSION: The results of this research confirm that serving large entree portions promotes increased intake at meals among 2- to 9-year-old children. These findings suggest that any age-related differences in children's response to large portions are likely to be smaller than previously suspected.

Last Modified: 06/28/2017
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