New Delhi: It is a known fact that eating too much food can cause obesity, but the fear of not having enough food may lead to the same result, a new study has claimed.
According to the new study, being worried about not having enough food to feed one`s family, a situation called food insecurity, is common in low-income families. These families often are overweight, too.
"Understanding the reasons why poverty puts families at greater risk of obesity is essential to addressing the epidemic," Rachel Gross, lead author of the study from Albert Einstein College of Medicine and The Children`s Hospital at Montefiore in New York, said.
Gross and her colleagues at the New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center, interviewed 201 low-income mothers with infants younger than 6 months about their feeding styles, feeding practices and concerns about their child becoming overweight.
Studies have shown that feeding patterns leading to obesity often begin in infancy.
The mothers primarily were Hispanic, and all participated in the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
The results showed that about one-third of the mothers reported food insecurity.
"We found that food insecurity is related to controlling feeding practices, which have been shown to increase child obesity.
"These controlling feeding practices involved both restriction, in which parents limit the infant`s intake even if the infant is hungry, and pressuring, in which the parent encourages the infant to eat more even if the infant is full," Gross said.
It is believed that when mothers control what an infant eats, it may disrupt the child`s ability to regulate his or her own hunger and fullness, leading to overeating and inappropriate weight gain, she said.
Food-insecure mothers also were more concerned about their child becoming overweight than mothers who weren``t worried about having enough food for their families.
"This work suggests that in addition to addressing hunger and malnutrition, it is critical that policy efforts be made to work with food-insecure families to prevent the opposite problem - obesity," she added.
The study has been recently presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston, and has been accepted for publication in Pediatrics.