Research Chair on Obesity Centre de recherche Institut Universitaire de Cardiologie et de Pneumologie du QuébecUniversité Laval
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Recent studies have identified many feeding habits that induce feeding over our actual energy requirements. When repeated, these habits can lead to weight gain. Here are some of the nutritional determinants associated with overweight:

Skipping Breakfast

Many studies have recorded a surprising trend: children and teenagers skipping breakfast have a higher body mass index and their risk of gaining weight is almost twice as high as for children having breakfast every morning, in spite of the fact that their total daily calorie intake is lower! In Quebec, 11% of 9-12-year olds and 36% of teenagers say they skip breakfast at least once a week. Even though this trend remains mostly unexplained, the following points may be taken into account:

  • A healthy breakfast satisfies hunger until lunch and helps prevent cravings for high-fat and high-sugar snacks. It also helps preventing having a heavy lunch.
  • Being less hungry at mealtime, the organism could be less tempted to stock more in order to prevent the next restriction period.
  • Skipping breakfast is often linked to a restrictive diet that puts the organism in a state of energy conservation and storage.
  • It seems that children and teenagers that skip breakfast are less physically active.


Low fruit and vegetable intake

The 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey established that men and women who declared eating fruits and vegetables less than three times daily were more likely to be obese than those having fruits and vegetables five or more times daily. Obesity rates, by fruit and vegetable consumption

Statistics Canada Community Health Survey 2004
Pérez CE. Fruit and vegetable consumption. Health Reports (Statistics Canada, Catalogue 82-003) 2002;13(3):23-31.

Large servings

A team of American researchers recently compared the current size of servings offered by restaurants and grocery stores to those suggested in 1950-1960 cookbooks. The results show that in every category (but one: bread) servings got larger! Studies established that, facing a large serving of macaroni, adults tend to eat 30% more than what they would have eaten if they had been given a smaller serving, even without noticing that serving size had changed! Even if serving size increased as the obesity rate increased, megaservings are not the sole factor causing obesity but surely play a significant role therein.


Soft Drinks

Soft drinks are an important source of calories. As those calories do not bring satiation, they add up to the calories provided by other food, which also means weight gain. A review conducted on school children revealed a clear association between consumption of nondiet soft drinks and increased calorie intake and body weight. The soft drink consumption of young Americans has almost doubled within the last decade at the expense of milk intake with the result that soft drinks have become the main source of sugar in their diet.

Reference: Strong Evidence Links Soft Drink Consumption to Obesity, Diabetes

Low calcium intake

Women with a low calcium intake have 6 to 7 times more risk of being overweight. Angelo Tremblay’s team observed the same trend: Quebec women with a low calcium intake had a higher body weight and body mass percentage compared to women with a high calcium intake. Accordingly, a 3-4-serving daily intake of dairy products, a high source of calcium, could prevent weight gain.

Although some animal studies support such an association and suggest mechanisms linking calcium and body weight, results of human intervention studies remain controversial.

Other hunger or satiety factors

Other factors favouring weight gain include: sleep deprivation, low milk intake, eating in front of the television, eating fast-food more than once a week, snacking, and medication such as antipsychotics.

Feeding Behaviour

Bad individual feeding habits may contribute to weight gain, such as eating large servings on a regular basis, eating a high-fat diet or frequently eating foods high in salt or sugar, and taking meals irregularly which may lead to compulsory eating.

These behaviours can be influenced by the emotional state. That is the case when a person is eating to escape boredom, stress, anxiety or when food becomes a reward.

Compulsory eating can reflect temporary boredom, but can also be an indication of deeper psychological distress. Eating then becomes a life-sustaining mechanism to appease suffering and an unbearable state of being.

Natural Products and Supplements

Natural Health Product Regulations (Health Canada)

The Regulations are the result of a comprehensive and inclusive consultation process, and are part of the Government's response to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health's report and 53 recommendations on the regulation of natural health products in Canada. The Regulations include provisions on product and site licensing, good manufacturing practices, adverse reaction reporting, clinical trials, labelling and a full range of health claims that will be supported by evidence.

To know more:
Consumer Advertising Guidelines for Marketed Health Products (for Nonprescription Drugs including Natural Health Products)
Health Products and Food Branch (Health Canada)


Dietary Reference Intakes

Diet & Nutrition


Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Canada's Food Guide (Health Canada)
Dietary Guidelines for Healthy American Adults: AHA Scientific Position
Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Children: AHA Scientific Position
American Dietetic Association Positions Index (ADA)
Weight Management -- Position of ADA
Dietary Protein and Weight Reduction. AHA Position
Healthy Eating (Health Canada)
Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC)
Diet, consumption, & health (ERS)
How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage your Weight
Did you know that eating fruits and vegetables can be a powerful, healthy way to lose or maintain weight?

Functional Foods

Functional foods -- Position of ADA (PDF format)
About Functional Foods (CSPI)
Database on the Isoflavone Content of Foods

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