The prevalence of obesity and eating disorders varies by sex, but the extent to which sex influences eating behaviors, especially in childhood, has received less attention. The purpose of this paper is to critically discuss the literature on sex differences in eating behavior in children and present new findings supporting the role of sex in child appetitive traits and neural responses to food cues. In children, the literature shows sex differences in food acceptance, food intake, appetitive traits, eating-related compensation, and eating speed. New analyses demonstrate that sex interacts with child weight status to differentially influence appetitive traits. Further, results from neuroimaging suggest that obesity in female children is positively related to neural reactivity to higher-energy-dense food cues in regions involved with contextual processing and object recognition, while the opposite was found in males. In addition to differences in how the brain processes information about food, other factors that may contribute to sex differences include parental feeding practices, societal emphasis on dieting, and peer influences. Future studies are needed to confirm these findings, as they may have implications for the development of effective intervention programs to improve dietary behaviors and prevent obesity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Nutrition and Dietetics