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Children With More Self Control Have Lower BMI as Adults

Update Date: Aug 16, 2012 06:35 AM EDT

We all know that self-control and delaying gratification is the key to a healthy living and maintaining a normal weight. However, a new research claims that self-control in children also, is equally important and could define their weight for a lifetime.

The study claims that children who display self-control at age 4 are more likely to maintain a lower body mass index by the time they reach their mid-thirties.

For the study, researchers conducted a delay of gratification test on 653 children between 1968 and 1974. The children were all 4-year-olds. For the test, the children were given one treat, and told that they would get another treat if they could wait for 15 minutes before they ate their first treat.

When the children were followed up later, it was found that long periods of gratification delay was associated with adolescent academic strength, social competence, planfulness, ability to handle stress, and higher SAT scores, Medical Xpress reported.

"Interventions can improve young children's self-control, which may decrease children's risk of becoming overweight and may have further positive effects on other outcomes important to society (general health, financial stability, and a reduced likelihood of being convicted of a crime)," said Tanya R, Schlam, PhD, from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health's Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention.

When the children were followed up after thirty years, 164 of them responded, of which 57 percent were females. It was found that for every minute that a child delayed gratification, there was a predicted 0.2 decrease in adult BMI. Only 24 percent of the respondents were found to be overweight and 9 percent obese.

The follow-up of the participants was done by Tanya Schlam and colleagues from University of Washington, Columbia University, and University of California, Berkeley.

Though high-calorie foods are easily available and tempting, it is important to develop high self-control and the ability to delay gratification, in order to regulate calorie-intake and maintain a healthy body weight, in both children and adults.

The study is scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics.

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