A new study has revealed that picky eating in kids may have more to do with their emotional state than their taste buds, in certain cases. The good news is that only a very small percentage of the subjects in the study were found to be affected by anxiety, depression and ADHD.
A team of researchers from Duke University’s School of Medicine looked at 900 kids with the age between 2 and 5. They were selected from the patients of primary care doctors who were affiliated with Duke University’s School of Medicine.
The experts went to their homes and conducted interviews with their parents in order to assess what the kids’ eating habits are and to identify any potential mental health issues that they may have. Out of the 900 subjects, 200 of them benefited from follow-up interviews two (2) years later.
What the researchers found was that preschoolers who are highly selective about what they eat to the point where they even dislike being close to certain foods are the most likely to suffer from either underlying anxiety or depression. However, it’s worth mentioning that only 3 percent (3%) of the 900 subjects were found to belong to this group.
“Moderate selected eating”, which is a less severe form of picky eating, refers to kids who only eat a small range of foods. Eighteen percent (18%) of the subjects were found to belong to this group.
Both severe pickers and moderate pickers proved to be twice as likely than other subjects to develop symptoms related to anxiety within the two (2) year waiting period between interviews.
Moderate pickers were also found to be more vulnerable to developing symptoms related to separation anxiety and attention deficit disorder (ADHD).
The research team does point out that severe picky eating resembles a condition known as “avoidant / restrictive food intake disorder”. It was added to the most recent edition of the psychiatric manual back in 2013 and can develop at any age. While some of these patients are in danger of suffering from mental illnesses, others are simply extra-sensitive to smells, tastes and textures.
“Normal dislike” refers to typical picky eaters, meaning kids who only refuse to eat their fruits and vegetables. Nancy Zucker, lead author on the study, eating disorders specialist and associate professor of psychiatry from Duke University’s School of Medicine, informs that these kids typically outgrow their pickiness when they start to mature.
Professor Zucker gave a statement also explaining that moderate pickers are more likely to outgrow the problematic habit than severe pickers. He did mention, however, that further research is needed is order to see how much more likely.
Dr. Arthur Lavin, a pediatrician and psycho-social issues expert from Cleveland, was not involved in the study but gave a statement of his own saying that picky eating is one of the main reasons why parents bring their kids to his office. He believes the study has great value as it helps health experts understand who they should be worried about.
He went on to add that the issue is a complex one – “There’s more going on here than just not wanting to eat broccoli”.
The study was published today (August 3, 2015), in the journal Pediatrics.
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