On the Relevance of Interoceptive Sensitivity for Overweight and Eating Behavior in Middle Childhood
1University of Potsdam, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Psychology, Germany
2Ulm University, Department of Health Psychology, Germany
Background: Previous research indicates that interindividual differences in the ability to perceive own bodily signals seems to be a crucial intrapersonal factor for disordered eating behavior and weight problems. But representative and prospective data in children is lacking and questions remain, as to whether it is a cause or a consequence. Methods: On the basis of two measurement points, data on interoceptive sensitivity (IS), measured by cardiac sensitivity (perception of the number of own heartbeats in three given time intervals while the actual heart rate is recorded) in 1657 children between 6 and 11 years of age were collected. Stability of the construct and its longitudinal association with different eating behaviors (assessed via parent questionnaires (CEBQ and DEBQ)) as well as with weight status were analyzed via SEMs. Findings: It was found that only in overweight children external and emotional eating behavior was predictive for later IS, whereas no such relation was found in normal weight children or in the total sample. Discussion: For the first time we could show that eating behavior and objective IS in middle childhood are prospectively related to each other. But surprisingly, our data indicate that low IS is rather a consequence than a cause of eating behavior patterns in overweight children, which suggests a possible crucial role of faulty learning mechanisms in eating behavior undermining the trust in one´s body.