Maternal nicotine dependence may be a “transdiagnostic risk factor” that can predict obesogenic eating behaviors in offspring such as child food responsiveness and emotional overeating, according to findings published in Pediatric Obesity.
“Evidence is building that rewarding aspects of addictive substances overlap with those of processed foods high in refined carbohydrates and fat — foods that are now widely available in the ‘toxic’ food environment and that promote obesogenic eating,” Jenna R. Cummings, PhD, a research fellow in the department of psychology at the University of Michigan, and colleagues wrote in the study background. “Thus, children of parents (especially mothers) who smoke may also be vulnerable to obesogenic eating.”
In an archival data analysis, Cummings and colleagues evaluated data from 50 children recruited from the Head Start program who participated in four waves of the Appetite, Behavior and Cortisol study at age 4, 6, 8 and 10 years. At wave four, caretakers reported on nicotine dependence; the study’s final sample was restricted to children who had a mother who reported nicotine dependence. Maternal nicotine dependence was assessed with the Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence, which measures current symptoms of substance use disorder specific to smoking. Child eating behavior was assessed with the 35-item Child Eating Behavior Questionnaire.
After adjusting for child age, child biological sex and family incometoneeds ratio, researchers found that more severe maternal nicotine dependence was associated with greater increases in child food responsiveness measurements (P = .014) and emotional overeating (P = .024) across 6 years. Researchers did not observe any associations between maternal nicotine dependence and decreases in child emotion undereating, satiety responsiveness and desire to drink during 6 years of follow-up.
“Maternal nicotine dependence may be a transdiagnostic risk factor that identifies children at risk for reward-driven, obesogenic eating behavior,” the researchers wrote. “Future research should identify the precise mechanisms by which this occurs.” – by Regina Schaffer
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.