The study’s pre-registered primary outcome measure, as recorded in ClinicalTrials.gov, was change in baseline fat mass at 16 weeks.
Secondary outcome measures (as recorded) were changes in baseline appetite at 16 weeks (assessed with visual analog scales and an eating behavior questionnaire), and objective appetite measures including a weighed breakfast buffet, weighted 3-day food records, and serum satiety hormone levels.
(Not preregistered as an outcome of interest? Body weight change or BMIz score.)
Outcome wise, here’s a snapshot of the study’s abstract:
Reading through the study, here’s what I found as outcomes:
The authors’ conclusions about a prebiotic supplement that was shown to markedly increase hunger hormone levels, that didn’t decrease 3 day food diary energy intake, that didn’t change all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet energy intake (unless you arbitrarily after the fact divided up the kids into those aged 7-10 and 11-12), and where the study’s registered primary outcome wasn’t mentioned in the study itself sure look differently than what you might expect, with their concluding sentence being,
“This simple dietary change has the potential to help with appetite regulation in children with obesity“
I also found it surprising that the study was free to read, and given the incredibly unexciting findings, it’s more difficult to imagine the authors paying for its open access. Easier to imagine the company that makes the prebiotic that a randomized controlled trial published in an impactful journal explicitly concluded, “has the potential to help with appetite regulation in children with obesity” (even though it didn’t), paying the extra fees as open access articles generally gather more citations.
As to what Beneo, the manufacturer of the prebiotic used in this study had to say, I found these quotes in an article published on the trade-zine Nutraingredients at the time of the study’s publication,
“Beneo regards this research of highest importance“,
and despite the study not even remotely coming to this conclusion also added,
“The intake of 8g of prebiotic inulin (Orafti Synergy 1) in a glass of water prior to dinner is a simple dietary intervention that supports children in their weight management efforts. The results show that they were naturally eating less (YF: no they didn’t) than the control group having maltodextrin“
And you can bet your bottom dollar, it’s studies and conclusions like this one that supplement companies use to suggest great benefits to their products, and it’s also studies like this one where I wish the journal employed open peer review as I can’t fathom how this one got through as is.
Lastly, while the authors didn’t report any conflicts of interest with this particular study, the supplements and placebos were provided by Beneo, and it was noted that one of the authors had previously enjoyed funding from Beneo. Unfortunately there is no mention as to who paid for this study’s open access.
Now I can’t imagine it’s a commonplace practice, but yesterday the Wall Street Journal published a piece about parents hiring coaches to help their children gain skills and level up in Fortnite, a first person shooter video game.
The mind boggles.
Dare to dream of a alternate universe, where instead of hiring their children video game tutors, parents hired coaches to help teach their kids life skills like cooking, making and keeping a budget, or critical appraisal. Or better yet dream of parents going out of their way to do so themselves, and of a school system that weaves those sorts of actual life skills throughout their curricula from K-12.
We can dare to dream, can’t we?
It’s a concern I hear not infrequently when meeting with parents of children with obesity – that their son or daughter is “stealing” food.
I have no doubt too, that in some cases, those kids received some perhaps well-intentioned, but I think very misplaced, ire about it.
The stories are all pretty similar, and often occur on weekends or after school whereby parents come home and find evidence that their child has raided the fridge, cupboard, or freezer by way of wrappers, cans, dirty dishes, or a much emptier than before container.
As to what’s happening, some thoughts.
First off, we all did it. I remember “stealing” Voortman Strawberry-Turnovers pretty much every Saturday morning while my parents were sleeping and I was watching cartoons. Some mornings I’d put away 6 of them.
And why did I do it?
Because they’re were delicious, and I was hungry, and I was a kid, and they were there, and because I could.
Secondly, we all still do it. Who doesn’t grab a handful of this, or a package of that, multiple times a week or even daily?
Plainly put, grabbing yummy, readily available, oftentimes calorie dense and unhealthy foods is part of the human condition.
And though I appreciate that parents who may be concerned about their children’s weights and/or eating patterns find this behaviour alarming, believing there to be something wrong with their children, or that their children lack “willpower“, is unwise and unfair.
If you’re worried about your children’s (or your own) grazing habits, here are a few things for you to consider.
So, if your kids are grabbing stuff, instead of approaching them with anger or overt concern, instead try to approach them with genuine curiosity to find out what’s going on, and then turn back to that list up above. If they just really like those things they’re grabbing, then planning them into the menu may help. If they report they’re starving, exploring their daytime eating patterns and choices to look for ways to ensure they get enough to eat so as to not arrive home famished. If they report there wasn’t anything good to grab, brainstorm other options and make sure they’re readily available and visible.
And lastly don’t forget who we’re talking about. If the expectation of regularly making healthy choices just because they’re healthy isn’t a fair expectation for all of us fully grown adults (and it’s not), why would it be fair to expect that of your children?