Energy intakes of children after preloads: adjustment, not compensation

Joanne Elizabeth Cecil, CN Palmer, W Wrieden, I Murrie, C Bolton-Smith, p Watt, DJ Wallis, MM Hetherington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Young children accurately compensate for energy-dense preloads consumed before test meals. The accuracy of compensation seems to deteriorate as a function of age.

Objective: The hypothesis that accurate energy compensation varies by age, body mass index, and individual characteristics of children and their mothers was tested. Design: Energy intake (EI) from a test meal was measured in 74 children aged 6-9 y 90 min after the ingestion of no-energy (NE), low-energy (LE), or high-energy (HE) preload snacks. The NE preload consisted of 250 mL water, the LE preload consisted of a 56-g muffin + a 250-mL orange drink (783 kJ), and the HE preload consisted of a 56-g muffin + a 250-mL orange drink (1628 W).

Results: A significant dose-related reduction in El was found after the preloads; younger children adjusted more effectively than did older children, although total El (including preload energy) indicated that the adjustment was not accurate. The compensation index (COMPX) differed by preload and age group; COMPX scores were higher between the NE and LE preloads (younger children: 44.4 9.3%; older children: 57.0 +/- 11.6%) than between the NE and HE preloads (39.6 +/- 4.9%; 31.3 +/- 6.2%) and the LE and HE preloads (35.2 +/- 7.8%; 7.4 +/- 9.8%). This finding indicates a more consistent response across preloads and a greater sensitivity to energy load by younger than by older children. High interindividual variation and low intraindividual variation in COMPX was found. The tendency to over- or undereat in response to the preloads (deviation from perfect) correlated directly and positively with maternal concerns about child overweight, not with actual BMI.

Conclusions: The children adjusted their EIs in response to different preloads, and the younger children did so more effectively than did the older children. Poor short-term energy compensation may constitute a behavioral marker for positive energy balance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-308
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2005


  • children
  • eating behavior
  • energy compensation
  • food intake
  • child overweight


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