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Human Nutrition research group
Human Appetite Research Unit
The HARU Infant Lab (Room B.29) is located beneath the main HARU laboratory (G.49). It was officially opened on June 16th, 2010 with a coffee and cake event, with all cakes containing fruits and/or vegetables! The laboratory consists of a custom-built family dining area for recording meals including high chairs for little people; a small kitchen for food preparation; a seating area with low back chairs to support mothers who wish to breastfeed their babies; and a computer workstation. Close by there is a washroom with wall-mounted baby change facility. The laboratory is situated on the ground floor for ease of access for parents and guardians with young children.
Research is conducted on infants in the Human Appetite Research Unit (HARU) so that we can understand the early development of appetite regulation. It is known that the ability to self-regulate energy intake is optimal in early development but that self-regulation may be impaired by different feeding practices over time. We are interested in characterizing the ability of infants to self-regulate and in identifying parental feeding practices which facilitate self-regulation.
We are also interested in how young children acquire food likes and dislikes. Our current research is funded by the European Union under Framework 7. One project is called HabEat (Determining factors and critical periods in food habit formation and breaking in early childhood, coordinated by Sylvie Issanchou at INRA in Dijon). This project involves partners in the UK, France, Denmark, Netherlands, Portugal and Greece). Another project is called VIVA (Applying learning theory to increase liking and intake of vegetables in children). This is a Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways (IAPP) grant between partners in Industry (Danone) and in Academia (Glasgow Caledonian University, and the Universities of Leeds, Aberdeen and St Andrews).
This project involves partners in the UK,Both projects focus on encouraging young children to eat more vegetables! We do this by filming responses to vegetables and then investigating the different ways in which vegetable intake can be established and sustained. Why are we interested in vegetables?
Vegetables play a crucial role in our diets because of their health related properties; they are extremely nutrient rich, low in energy and might contribute to preventing the onset of several chronic diseases. Current research shows that many individuals are not consuming enough vegetables in their everyday diets and this is the case for both adults and children. Many children report a strong dislike of vegetables and this may be due to taste, texture or appearance. Interestingly at weaning (around 6 months) infants are willing to eat vegetables and appear to accept a variety of vegetable flavours. However, this willingness decreases as the child develops.
Our research will enable parents and caregivers to use evidence-based strategies to encourage healthy eating habits in children and once established to sustain this into later childhood and beyond.
Participate in our study
If you live in Leeds or in the surroundings and are keen to participate with your little children in our ongoing studies, please fill in the form below. We would be really happy to contact you back to discuss with you the study in which you could participate.