Picky eating is probably something common among children and parents are used to it and do not see is as something serious. However a recent study suggests that severe picky eating might be a sign of depression, anxiety and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). As a consequence children who show severe selective-eating tendencies could be diagnosed with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) which is a newly recognized eating disorder which is also listed in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
The study published in the journal Pediatrics involved more than 900 children with ages between two and six. The participants were monitored for approximately three years. Based on parents interviews researchers concluded that almost 18 percent of the children in the study were moderate picky eaters. This meant that mealtimes t home were difficult and eating at day care was challenging. Three percent of the participants were considered severe picky eaters meaning that they had an extremely limited diet which made it difficult for them to eat with others and also forcing them to interrupt or avoid certain activities.
Overall severe picky eaters were more prone to be diagnosed with social anxiety and depression in the years that followed. Researchers acknowledged that some associations in the study were not that strong so the study has some limitations and it does not directly prove that picky eating leads to psychological disorders. However the study draws attention to matter which tends to be trivialized by both doctors and parents.
Pediatric gastroenterologist Scott Pentiuk from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center was not involved on the study, but commented on the findings:
This doesn’t prove that selective eating leads to these other disorders. Kids who are already anxious about eating may be more predisposed to being more anxious in general or developing an anxiety disorder later.”
He also said that the main underlying cause of eating disorders could be for example aversion to textures or other sensory-processing difficulties. Laura Jana from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha said that it is important to introduce new foods to children. She also added that previous studies indicate that it can take between 10 and 15 exposures to a new type of food until a child will grow to like it.
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