Pediatric obesity results from a daily energy imbalance between intake and expenditure, an imbalance potentially as slight as ∼30-50 kcal/day (e.g., a few extra sips of cola or bites of a cookie). That an ‘energy gap' so small may be so powerful suggests the importance of understanding mechanisms of food intake self-regulation (FISR). This review focuses on 4 behavioral indices of FISR in childhood: (1) eating in the absence of hunger; (2) eating rate; (3) caloric compensation and satiety responsiveness, and (4) food responsiveness. Evidence from pediatric samples around the world indicates that these traits are associated with body mass index, are heritable, and are linked to polymorphisms in the FTO gene. We review these data, also discussing their relevance to practical issues of parental feeding styles, portion sizes, and health literacy and numeracy. Research gaps and opportunities for future investigation are discussed. Multidisciplinary approaches and study designs that can address gene-environment interactions are needed to advance the science of FISR and stimulate new avenues for childhood obesity prevention. © 2013 S. Karger AG, Basel
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