Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Childhood eating habits affect health later: study

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CALGARY -- Children scarfing down lip-smacking goodies instead of their fruits and vegetables may be setting themselves up for a lifetime of battling the bulge or even Type 2 diabetes, new research suggests.

Researchers at the University of Calgary used rats in experiments to show diet in childhood and adolescence can permanently alter how genes react and cause changes in hormones that make you feel full.

This suggests that what you eat as a child can have a huge impact on health later in life, said author Raylene Reimer.

The researchers fed baby rats three different diets from a very young age: one with high protein, one with high fibre and one balanced. When the rats reached adulthood they were fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet mirroring typical North American eating habits -- including sugar, lard and soybean oil. All the rats were allowed to indulge in as much junk food as they wanted. It turned out that those reared on the high-protein diet wanted a lot more -- and gained much more weight and body fat -- than those rats that were fed the high-fibre diet as youngsters. Those rats eating the normal, balanced diet stayed almost as slim as the fibre group.

"What we saw was very striking in terms of their body weights," said Reimer. "We saw that the high-fibre diet was actually protective against obesity, whereas the high protein-diet was very much promoting obesity later on in life."

The results could explain why some people find it impossible to shed extra pounds despite dieting and exercise, while others never seem to gain an ounce, said Reimer.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 15, 2009 A12

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