Every child has things that they refuse to eat. But a new study has found that certain picky eaters may be vulnerable to developing mental conditions such as depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorder (ADHD).
The upside is that only a few of the study participants have been linked to these disorders, but parents are advised to pay close attention to their kids in order to assess whether or not they should see a professional.
A group of researchers from Duke University picked out 900 children with an age range of 2 to 5 years old and went to their homes. The field experts conducted interviews with their parents so that they could determine what the children’s eating habits look like, as well as document any mental health issues that they may be vulnerable to.
Two hundred (200) of the 900 subjects were then selected for follow-up interviews that took place two (2) years later.
The results showed that preschoolers who are severely selective of what they eat, meaning that they dislike even being in close proximity of certain foods, are likely to have underlying symptoms of either depression or anxiety. This is a small group however, as only 3 percent (3%) of the study subjects fitted this description.
“Moderate selected eating” describes a more accepting group of children. They only eat a fairly small range of foods, but don’t have any trouble being in close proximity of foods that they dislike. This group is a little more widespread, as 18 percent (18%) of the study subjects fitted this description.
When compared to normal picky eaters, the researchers said that both severe picky eaters and moderate picky eaters were twice as likely to develop anxiety in the two (2) years between interviews. What’s more, moderate picky eaters were also more likely to develop separation anxiety or attention deficit disorder.
Normal picky eaters, also referred to by researches as the “normal dislike” group, included children who only reject fruits and vegetables. Nancy Zucker, associate professor of psychiatry over at Duke University, eating disorders specialist and lead author of the study, gave a statement informing that these are the children who typically outgrow their picky behavior as they grow older.
She went on to add that moderate picky eaters have a better chance of outgrowing their picky behavior than severe picky eaters, but also admitted that further studies need to be conducted in order to figure out what the exact odds are.
The study was published on August 3, 2015, in the journal Pediatrics.
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