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Title: Children's eating habits
Author: Cooke, Lucy Jill
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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Children's fruit and vegetable intake is well below recommended levels on average, but explanations for the wide variation in consumption remain elusive. This thesis investigates the determinants of children's food preferences and eating habits with the aim of informing the development of effective interventions to promote healthier diets. Study 1 examined the developmental patterning of food preferences from age four to 16 in a large cross-sectional survey. Vegetables were widely disliked at all ages with little evidence of developmental improvement, but children rated fruit unexpectedly highly. Study 2 investigated the relative contribution of parental behaviours and children's own traits to fruit and vegetable consumption in a large sample of preschool children. The strongest predictors of children's intake were parental intake and the child's food neophobia. Two studies further investigated the relationship with neophobia. In Study 3A, neophobia was significantly negatively correlated with intake of fruit, vegetables and protein, but not with intake of starchy, dairy, or fatty/sugary foods. These findings were based on parental reports of children's intake, but they were replicated in Study 3B which assessed food intake directly in a school setting. Study 4 investigated the relative contribution of genes and environment to phenotypic variation in neophobia in a large cohort of 9-11 year-old twins. Heritability estimates for neophobia were high but nevertheless over a quarter of the variance was accounted for by shared environmental factors, pointing to the importance of the home setting. Study 5 was a RCT of an exposure-based intervention aimed at increasing children's acceptance of vegetables. Intake was measured in taste tests and showed significantly greater increases in the intervention group than either of the control conditions. Finally, Study 6 tested the effectiveness of the intervention in a low-income population obtaining similar results. The implications and potential applications of these findings are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available