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Food choices
Our work in this area focuses on learning more about why children's diets are low in fruits and vegetables and high in energy-dense snack foods, and developing strategies for modifying intake. We have made several important advances in tracking developmental trends in food choices, assessing the contribution of heritable genetic factors, and understanding the influence of parental feeding styles (e.g. exposure, control over feeding, modelling). Future work will take this research forward, using data from the Twins Early Development Study and GEMINI, together with a number of community and school-based samples of children and parents.

The Poppets study first examined family environment correlates of healthy dietary choices in preschool children using a survey methodology. The second part has involved developing and testing an intervention based on habit theory to improve dietary quality. The pilot study showed that the intervention was effective, with improved dietary outcomes in both parents and children. We are currently running an effectiveness trial with a larger sample of participants.

A large NPRI/MRC-funded project looks at the role of reward on children's acceptance of a disliked vegetable. Our evidence suggests that reward increases liking and intake, with changes maintained at 3 month follow-up. We are currently expanding this work in the GEMINI twin sample.

HabEat is an EU funded study of food habit formation. We are running a randomised controlled trial with parents of 4-6 months infants, randomising them to guidance on early introduction of vegetables vs. usual care.

Contacts: Prof Jane Wardle, Dr Lucy Cooke, Dr Laura McGowan

Recent publications:
Sweetman C, McGowan L, Croker H, Cooke L. Characteristics of family mealtimes affecting children's vegetable consumption and liking. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 111,2011, 269-73. (view abstract)

Wardle J, Cooke LJ. One man's meat is another man's poison. Science & Society Series on Food and Science. EMBO. 11, 2010, 816-821. (view abstract)

Johnson L, van Jaarsveld CHM, Wardle J. Individual and family environment correlates differ for consumption of core and non-core foods in children. British Journal of Nutrition. 105, 2011, 950-959. (view abstract)

Cooke LJ, Chambers LC, Aņez EV, Croker HA, Boniface D, Yeomans MR, Wardle J. Eating for Pleasure or Profit. Psychological Science. 22, 2011, 190-96. (view abstract)

Cooke LJ, Chambers LC, Anez EV, Wardle J. Facilitating or undermining? The effect of reward on food acceptance: a narrative review. Appetite. 57, 2011, 493-497. (view abstract)

Webber L, Cooke L, Hill C, Wardle J. Child adiposity and maternal feeding practices: a longitudinal analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 92, 2010, 1423-1442. (view abstract)

Croker H, Sweetman C, Cooke L. Mothers' views on portion sizes for children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 22, 2009, 437-443. (view abstract)

Wardle, J & Cooke, L. Genetic and environmental determinants of children's food preferences. British Journal of Nutrition, 99, 2008, S15-S21. (view abstract)

Cooke, L, Haworth, C and Wardle J Genetic and environmental influences on children's food neophobia. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86, 2007 428-433. (view abstract)

Cooke, L. The importance of exposure for healthy eating in childhood: a review. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 20, 2007, 294-301. (view abstract)

Child and adolescent obesity
Our child and adolescent obesity research draws on behavioural, physiological, psychosocial and clinical methodologies. A major theme is to evaluate the characteristics that make some individuals more susceptible to obesity. We have identified an 'appetitive phenotype', based on the combination of satiety sensitivity and food responsiveness which can be measured during childhood and predicts differential excessive weight gain. We have developed behavioural and psychometric measures of children's eating behaviour, and used data from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) and GEMINI to examine genetic effects.

GEMINI is a population-based twin birth cohort set up to investigate diet, activity and growth from birth to five years. All UK families with twins born March-December 2007 were approached by the Office of National Statistics and 2402 families (4804 children) joined the study. We collect data on anthropometrics, appetite, food preferences, activity, sleep, and parental feeding practices at several different time points. We have also taken cheek samples for DNA analyses in a large sub-sample of children. We use GEMINI data to assess the importance of genetic and environmental factors on child obesity.

One line of work focuses on children's physical activity, measured using accelerometry alongside parental/child reports of activity. Using the TEDS sample we have found that activity preferences are mainly genetic, but levels of daily activity are predominantly environmental. In our GEMINI sample we have found strong genetic influences on motor activity in infancy.

Together with colleagues at Great Ormond Street Hospital we have evaluated a family-based behavioural treatment of childhood obesity and we are now involved in PROMISE; an NIHR-funded programme of work aimed at significantly improving the experience and care of obese children in the UK.

Our research in adolescent obesity includes our participation in TEMPEST; an EU funded investigation of the role of self-regulatory skills in adolescents.

Contacts: Helen Croker, Dr Ellen van Jaarsveld, Dr Clare Llewellyn, Dr Abi Fisher, Prof Jane Wardle

Collaborators: Prof Robert Plomin, Prof Tim Cole, Prof Stephen O'Rahilly, Prof Russell Viner, Dr Laura Johnson

Recent publications:
Johnson L, Llewellyn CH, van Jaarsveld CHM, Cole TJ, Wardle J. Genetic and environmental influences on infant growth: Prospective analysis of the Gemini twin birth cohort. Plos One. 6, 2011, e19918. (view abstract)

Llewellyn CH, van Jaarsveld CHM, Johnson L, Carnell S, Wardle J. Development and factor structure of the Baby Eating Behaviour Questionnaire. Appetite. 57, 2011, 388-396. (view abstract)

Fisher A, Hill C, Webber L, Purslow L, Wardle J. MVPA is associated with lower weight gain in 8-10 year old children: a prospective study with 1 year follow-up. PLoS One. 6, 2011, e18576. (view abstract)

Fisher A, van Jaarsveld CHM, Llewellyn CH, Wardle J. Environmental influences on children's physical activity: quantitative estimates using a twin design. PloS One. 5, 2010, e10110. (view abstract)

van Jaarsveld CHM, Johnson L, Llewellyn CH, Wardle J. Gemini: A UK twin birth cohort with a focus on early childhood weight trajectories, appetite and the, family environment. Twin Reseach and Human Genetics. 13, 2010, 72-78. (view abstract)

Llewellyn CH, van Jaarsveld CHM, Johnson L, Carnell S, Wardle J. Nature and nurture in infant appetite: analysis of the Gemini twin birth cohort. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 91, 2010,1172-79. (view abstract)

Wardle J, Llewellyn C, Sanderson S, Plomin R. The FTO gene and measured food intake in children. International Journal of Obesity. 33, 2009, 42-45. (view abstract)

Johnson L, van Jaarsveld CHM, Emmett PM, Rogers IS, Ness A, Hattersley AT, Timpson NJ, Davey Smith G, Jebb SA. Dietary Energy Density affects fat mass in early adolescence and is not modified by FTO variants. PLoS One. 4, 2009:e4594. (view abstract)

Wardle J, Carnell S, Haworth C, Farooqi S, O'Rahilly S and Plomin R. Obesity-associated variation in FTO is associated with diminished satiety. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 93, 2008, 3640-3643. (view abstract)

Ashcroft J, Semmler C, Carnell S, van Jaarsveld CHM and Wardle J. Continuity and stability of eating behaviour traits in children. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 62, 2008, 985-990. (view abstract)

Wardle J, Carnell S, Haworth CMA and Plomin R. Evidence for strong genetic influence on childhood adiposity despite the force of the obesogenic environment. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87, 2008, 398-404. (view abstract)

Haworth CMA, Plomin R, Carnell S and Wardle J. Obesity in children: genetic and environmental overlap with normal range BMI. Obesity, 16, 2008, 1585-1590. (view abstract)

Adult obesity and weight control
Our research into adult obesity includes clinical, psychosocial and epidemiological studies. In collaboration with Weight Concern we have developed Shape-Up - a lifestyle management programme aimed at weight control - and are currently running a number of small, facilitated groups, about which we encourage enquires (Contact: Dr Kate Evans). We are also looking at novel approaches to weight control in a programme of work that includes an internet-based intervention aimed specifically at Afro-Caribbean women. We have collaborated with Cancer Research UK to develop a simple weight loss intervention based on a theory of habit formation: The Ten Top Tips. An exploratory trial of this leaflet-based intervention has recently been completed. We have also begun a series of studies looking at the creation and long-term maintenance of healthy lifestyle habits and have developed a methodology for modelling the habit formation process on an individual basis.

We are collaborating with Professor Andrew Steptoe on several investigations into the relationships between stress, diet and weight. We have also been applying new analysis techniques to data from the Health Survey for England, revealing important trends in weight gain in the British population, and are involved in a number of other epidemiological analyses of weight and diet using data from a number of national and international studies, e.g. Whitehall II, International Health and Behaviour Study.

One of our Cancer Research UK-funded PhD students is conducting research looking at the emotional and behavioural impact of genetic test feedback for the risk of weight gain. We are particularly interested in establishing whether genetic test feedback would be a useful tool for behaviour change.

We are also involved in the NIHR-funded UPBEAT study, a programme of work developing and evaluating a lifestyle intervention for obese pregnant women.

Contacts: Helen Croker, Prof Jane Wardle, Dr Rebecca Beeken, Susanne Meisel.

Recent publications:
Johnson F, Pratt M, Wardle J. Dietary restraint and self-regulation in eating behaviour. International Journal of Obesity. (In press). doi: 10.1038/ijo.2011.156 (view abstract)

Meisel SF, Walker C, Wardle J. Psychological responses to genetic testing for weight gain - a vignette study. Obesity. (In press). Johnson F, Mavroggiani A, Ucci A, Vidal-Puig A, Wardle J. Could increased time spent in a thermal comfort zone contribute to population increases in obesity? Obesity Reviews. 57,2011,493-497. (view abstract)

Whitaker KL, Jarvis, MJ, Beeken RJ, Boniface D, Wardle J. Comparing maternal and paternal intergenerational transmission of obesity risk in a large population-based sample. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 91, 2010, 1560-1567. (view abstract)

Lally P, van Jaarsveld CHM, Potts HWW, Wardle J. How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology. 40, 2010, 998-1009. (view abstract)

Wardle J, Chida Y, Gibson EL, Whitaker KL, Steptoe A. Stress and adiposity: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Obesity. 19, 2011, 771-778. (view abstract)

van Jaarsveld CHM, Fidler JA, Steptoe A, Boniface D, Wardle J. Perceived stress and weight gain in adolescence: a longitudinal analysis. Obesity. 17, 2009, 2155-2161. (view abstract)

Wardle J, Boniface D. Changes in the distributions of body mass index and waist circumference in the adult population of England, 1993/4 to 2002/3. International Journal of Obesity, 32, 2008, 527-532. (view abstract)

Lally P, Chipperfield A and Wardle J. 'Healthy habits': efficacy of simple advice on weight control. International Journal of Obesity. 32, 2008, 700-707. (view abstract)

This page last modified 22 Aug, 2011 by Mark Livermore

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