Diet foods may lead to childhood obesity, new study

According to new sudy raising children on diet foods and drinks could inadvertently turn them into obese adults. Research from the University of Alberta said that children's bodies learn to connect the taste of different foods and drinks with whether they are high or low in calories, and if they only have diet food and drink this connection becomes distorted leading them to overeat as they develop into adults.

The study will be published in the journal Obesity and is the work of sociologist Dr David Pierce and colleagues from the University of Alberta .

"Based on what we've learned, it is better for children to eat healthy, well-balanced diets with sufficient calories for their daily activities rather than low-calorie snacks or meals," said Pierce.

He and his team showed that feeding young rats low calorie substitutes of food and drink led them to overeat, whether they were lean or genetically obese. Eating too many calories is more of a health risk for obese animals.

However, older, adolescent rats that were also fed low calorie substitutes of their regular food and drink did not overeat. The researchers concluded that the older rats did not overeat because by this age they had learned to assess the calorific value of different foods and drinks using their sense of taste, and this regulated their intake. They called this process "taste conditioning," reports Medical News Today.

According to Xinhuanet, W. David Pierce, a sociologist from University of Alberta and lead author of the paper, acknowledged that extrapolating the findings to human children is a big leap.

"Parents and health professionals should be made aware of this and know that the old-fashioned ways to keep children fit and healthy-insuring they eat well-balanced meals and exercise regularly-are the best ways," he said. "Diet foods are probably not a good idea for growing youngsters."

Soft drinks sweetened with sugar and other sugary beverages are among the biggest contributors to childhood obesity in the U.S., according to childhood obesity expert Goutham Rao.

"The solution to the obesity epidemic is simple to understand but hard to implement," Rao says. "Avoid sweetened beverages, avoid fast food, limit media time, fit physical activity into the everyday routine, and eat together as a family. If every family did these things there would be very few obese children."