February 18, 2018 |
Severe 'Picky Eating' May Point to Mental Health Issues in Kids
November 2, 2015  | 

Durham, NC - A kid who is a seriously "picky eater" is also likely to struggle with emotional problems like anxiety and depression, new research suggests.

About 3 percent of kids suffer from severe selective eating, to the extent that they can't eat out at a restaurant, said lead researcher Nancy Zucker, an eating disorders specialist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

These kids are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or social anxiety, when compared with kids who'll eat anything, according to findings published online Aug. 3 in the journal Pediatrics.

Even kids who are moderate picky eaters -- for example, they only have 10 foods they will reliably eat -- are at increased risk for symptoms of anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, although not to the extent that they can be diagnosed with a disorder, Zucker added.

The researchers discovered that kids who eat selectively are unusually sensitive, and that this sensitivity affects their eating and their emotional health.

"They have a stronger sensitivity to the world outside and to how their body feels," Zucker said. "That sets them up to have more vivid experiences -- more intense food experiences, more intense emotional experiences. None of that is pathological, but it could be a vulnerability for later problems."

These findings should take some of the blame off of the parents, since it's not just a matter of controlling an unruly child, Zucker said.

In this study, researchers looked at more than 3,400 children ages 2 to nearly 6 who were treated at one of Duke's pediatric primary care clinics. Of those, over 900 kids were screened by an in-home evaluation, and their parents filled out psychiatric assessment forms and reported on their eating patterns. Continue>

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