Health & Wellness Science & Technology Society & Culture

Childhood obesity expert to discuss how behavioral factors influence eating

Leann Birch

Athens, Ga. – Leann L. Birch, director of the center for childhood obesity at Penn State University, will discuss her research on the behavioral factors that influence how people eat on a rescheduled date of Jan. 16 from 12:20-1:10 p.m. at the University of Georgia in room 110 of Dawson Hall. Her lecture is titled “Factors that Influence the Developing Controls of Food Intake from Infancy through Adolescence.”

The lecture was rescheduled due to flight cancelations caused by Hurricane Sandy in late October.

Birch, a distinguished professor of human development in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State, has conducted research for more than 30 years focusing on food intake from infancy through through adolescence.

One of her ongoing research projects explores the relationships that exist between feeding, sleeping and growth in infants during the first year of life and their subsequent influence on children’s eating habits, growth and weight. A second project looked at the benefits of providing young children with larger servings of vegetables at the beginning of meals as a way of increasing their intake of nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods. Birch also conducted a 10-year longitudinal study exploring how young girls learn to control eating habits. The study’s focus was on the emergence of weight concerns, dieting and problems of energy balance, including childhood obesity and disordered eating.

“While dieting and eating disorders have been viewed as problems that emerge during adolescence,” Birch said, “our research with 5- to 11-year-olds reveals that these problems begin much earlier, prior to puberty, and that they are linked to parents’ own eating and weight issues and to parents’ child-feeding practices.”

Birch’s presentation is sponsored by the College of Family and Consumer Sciences department of foods and nutrition and the University of Georgia Obesity Initiative. It is the second in a series that will continue into the spring.

“Dr. Birch’s presentation represents our ongoing efforts to identify experts in childhood obesity across the country who are conducting translational research,” said Lynn Bailey, the college’s foods and nutrition department head. “Based on her world-renowned reputation, we’re confident Dr. Birch’s insight will help us as we continue to search for ways that involve families, schools and other caregivers in reducing the risks of childhood obesity.”