Child impulse control may lower adult BMI
Children who resist immediate gratification in exchange for later rewards may have lower body mass indices (BMI) as adults, according to a new study.
Between 2002 and 2004, researchers from the University of Wisconsin, the University of Washington, Columbia University, and the University of California, Berkeley collected self-reported heights and weights from 164 adults who had participated in an impulse control experiment in the 1960s and ’70s. As preschoolers, the participants faced the choice of a single treat — such as a marshmallow or cookie — immediately, or two treats given at an unspecified time. Children who chose to wait for two treats could relent before the end of the 15- to 20-minute experiment, and still receive a single treat. The original study population was mostly white and wealthy.
In the current analysis, scientists found that each minute the children delayed gratification was associated with a 0.2-point decrease in adult BMI. The authors suggest that children who display greater self-control may be better able to resist unhealthy foods throughout life.
BOTTOM LINE: Teaching greater self-control to children could help them maintain healthier weights as adults.
C AUTIONS: While researchers showed a correlation between delayed gratification and healthier BMI, the study does not definitively prove that better impulse control resulted in health benefits.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of Pediatrics, Aug. 16
Children’s activity linked to motor skills
Children who spend more time watching television, sleeping, sitting, or lying down may develop worse motor skills than those who lead more active lifestyles, according to researchers in Portugal.
In a new study, scientists fitted 213 Portuguese children, ages 9 and 10, with accelerometers to measure their daily movements over five consecutive days. Children demonstrated their motor coordination in a separate test that included walking backward on balance beams, jumping over obstacles, and hopping on one foot.
On average, the children were inactive 75.6 percent of the time, with boys showing slightly more physical activity than girls. Children who recorded less physical activity on their accelerometers were 4 to 9 times less likely to perform well on the motor coordination tests, compared with children who exercised more. More studies are needed to assess the relationship between childhood inactivity and motor skills later in life, the authors say.
BOTTOM LINE: For children, increasing physical activity could help improve motor coordination.
CAUTIONS: The study did not prove that inactivity caused deficiencies in motor skills. Some children may have exercised less because they had problems with motor coordination.
WHERE TO FIND IT: American Journal of Human Biology, Aug. 15