Published: 15 April 2014

Becoming an expert: Vassiliki Sinopoulou on dietary fibre and children’s appetite

VassillikiExpert-1

Vassiliki Sinopoulou, from Greece, is in the third year of her PhD in the Appetite and Obesity Research Group in the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society. For her research project Vassiliki is using the facilities in the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behaviour in the Department of Psychological Sciences to investigate the effect of dietary fibre on children’s appetite. Her supervisors are Dr Joanne Harrold and Professor Jason Halford:

“Obesity is a growing problem among today’s children and adolescents.

An estimated 28% of children aged 2-15 are classified as overweight or obese and many of them retain their overweight or obese status in their adulthood. This can affect many aspects of their physical and psychological well-being and lead to many health problems such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and mental health problems like depression.

Appetite and responsiveness to the satiety effects of foods are determinants of children’s eating behaviour, which in turn could have an effect on energy intake and body weight.

Research in adults shows that specific food ingredients may enhance the feeling of fullness after eating a meal, and consequently impact on how much we eat.

One of these ingredients is dietary fibre, which is an umbrella term for a set of substances that share some physical and chemical characteristics and which can affect satiety.

However, there is limited research examining the effects of dietary fibre on appetite in children and adolescents. This probably reflects the difficulty of bringing children into the lab for multiple hours in a day and for multiple days, so in my study I go out to primary and secondary schools in the Liverpool area and try to replicate the laboratory studies as closely as possible in children aged between 7-10 and 13-16 years.

I am currently testing the effects of two breakfasts which differ in fibre content – one high and one low. Children are given one of the two types of breakfast. Four hours later, I serve the same children with lunch and measure how much they eat to determine whether this has been influenced by the type of breakfast they ate.

The children complete questionnaires about their feelings of hunger and fullness before and after the meals and their liking of the foods they have eaten. I am halfway through my project and have worked with three schools so far.

I am keen to work with new schools in the Liverpool region so please get in touch with me at sinop@liv.ac.uk and I’d be more than happy to talk to you.”

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