A focus on dental health can protect children from developing overweight

November 8, 2017, University of Gothenburg

Talking about dental health with children and parents – about what is healthy and unhealthy for your teeth – can be one way to prevent children from developing overweight. This is suggested in a thesis from Sahlgrenska Academy on children's diet, BMI and well-being.

"Weight can be a sensitive subject, but if you talk about eating behaviors alongside , you're looking at the issue from a different angle," confirms Louise Arvidsson, registered dietitian and PhD student at the Institute of Medicine.

In one of her sub-studies, she reviewed eating behavior, BMI and dental health of 271 pre-school and primary school children in Sweden. The children's height, weight, and food intake over one day were compared with the prevalence of cariogenic microorganisms in saliva - and the link was clear: The children who had higher amount of caries bacteria also had significantly higher BMI and worse . They ate more frequently and consumed more foods rich in sugar.

"There is absolutely a possibility to catch these children and talk about food habits, specifically in Sweden where the dentists meets with them at an early age, but this needs a good level of collaboration between the general dentistry, the child health care and schools," says Louise Arvidsson.

With good food comes increased self-esteem, better relationships with friends and fewer emotional problems, Louise confirms in a different sub-study. Children that to a higher extent followed general dietary recommendations – wholegrain products, 400-500 grams of fruit and vegetables per day, fish two to three times a week and a low intake of sugar and saturated fat – reported better mental well-being.

The effects were achieved regardless of socio-economic background, and regardless of the children's weight. Her research further shows that good self-esteem could be linked to the healthier eating habits, two years later. A and might therefore be considered to interact, in a positive spiral.

"We know that adults with depression feel better if, in addition to other treatment, they also meet with a dietitian. The question is whether a healthy diet can have effect also in young children. There has been a lot of focus on physical activity and mental in children, but diet is an increasingly recognized aspect," says Louise Arvidsson.

The entire thesis is based on data from a large European study, Idefics (with the University of Gothenburg having primary responsibility for Sweden's participation), the aim of which is to document and prevent childhood obesity.

In her thesis, Louise has also highlighted what does not work in protecting from becoming overweight. Children between the age of 2-10 who were stopped from eating by their parents were generally overweight 5-6 years later.

"It clearly doesn't work, stopping your child from eating too much, or putting them on a , as some people were convinced. You really have to look at other methods to control a child's eating habits," says Arvidsson.

"Are you offering carrots as snacks, or both carrots and biscuits? What you eat at home is a very important question, and that you yourself try to make healthy choices. Children do as we do, not as we say."

Explore further: Only one-third of parents think they are doing a good job helping kids eat healthy

More information: Diets of European children, with focus on BMI, well-being, and families. hdl.handle.net/2077/52844

Related Stories

Only one-third of parents think they are doing a good job helping kids eat healthy

February 20, 2017
If you know healthy eating is important for your kids but you also feel like it's easier said than done, you're not alone.

Start healthy eating habits early to head off obesity in kids

April 28, 2015
(HealthDay)—Though it may not always be easy, helping young children develop healthy eating habits is worth the effort, experts say.

One out of two parents do not see their child's weight problems

March 13, 2014
One out of two parents of children with overweight feel that their child's weight is normal. Four out of ten parents of children with overweight or obesity are even worried that their child will get too thin. These are the ...

Overweight very young children consume larger meals, say data from UK survey

June 3, 2016
Data from a large UK survey on the eating habits of very young children (aged 4-18 months) show that overweight children consume larger meals, but do not eat more frequently, than healthy weight children. This study of the ...

Television viewing a predictor of weight change in children over time

May 24, 2017
Researchers at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University observed little effect of health behaviors, including eating habits, television viewing, and physical activity, on change in weight among children.

Recommended for you

The starch risk to teeth

August 7, 2018
An examination of research on oral health, commissioned by the World Health Organisation, has indicated that for oral health we should stick to whole grain carbohydrates and avoid processed ones, especially if sweet.

Study finds behavioral changes insufficient at preventing early childhood obesity

August 7, 2018
Young children and their families in poor communities were able to make some achievable and sustainable behavioral changes during the longest and largest obesity prevention intervention, but, in the end, the results were ...

Experts question benefits of fluoride-free toothpaste

August 7, 2018
Dental health experts worry that more people are using toothpaste that skips the most important ingredient—fluoride—and leaves them at a greater risk of cavities.

Responsive parenting intervention results in lower BMIs through age three

August 7, 2018
An intervention designed to promote healthy growth, which taught first-time moms how to respond with age-appropriate responses to their babies' needs, resulted in children having lower body mass indexes (BMIs) when they were ...

Measure of belly fat in older adults is linked with cognitive impairment

August 1, 2018
A new study using data from over 5,000 individuals has found that a measure of belly fat (waist:hip ratio) was associated with reduced cognitive function in older Irish adults (>60 years of age). These findings have significant ...

How can you avoid regaining those lost kilos?

July 23, 2018
The hardest part about losing weight is maintaining it. Many people manage to lose weight, but in time the kilos can slowly come back.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.