Campus News Georgia Impact

Penn State professor to talk about behaviors that influence eating

Leann Birch

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 we eat on Oct. 31 from 12:20-1:10 p.m. in Room 110 of Dawson Hall.

Birch, who is a Distinguished Professor of Human Development in the Penn State College of Health and Human Development, has conducted research focusing on food intake beginning with infants and continuing through adolescence for more than 30 years.

Some of her ongoing projects have included exploring 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, their growth and weight.

She also has looked at the benefits of providing young children larger servings of vegetables at the beginning of meals as a way of increasing their intake of nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods. 

A third project is a 10-year longitudinal study exploring how young girls learn to control their eating habits with a focus 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, weight issues and to parents’ child-feeding practices.”

Birch’s presentation is sponsored by the College of Family and Consumer Sciences foods and nutrition department and the UGA Obesity Initiative. It is the second in a series that will continue Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. in Room 137 of the Tate Student Center.