It has been suggested that young children regulate their daily energy intake very closely with highly stable day-to-day total energy intake. This hypothesis was developed on the basis of an experimental study of 15 children aged 26 to 62 months, which reported a within-subject coefficient of variation (CV) in daily energy intake of 10.4%.
We tested the hypothesis that free-living energy intakes were highly stable on a day-to-day basis in a sample of free-living young children from Glasgow, Scotland. In 101 children (47 boys) aged 2.6-6.8 years, energy intake was measured using multiple-pass 24-hour recalls. Within-subject CV was 19.2% which was significantly higher than the 10.4% reported by Birch and colleagues (p<0.0001). In addition, we identified four other studies on free-living children with within-subject CV's ranging from 16.1-28.7%. This evidence indicates that young children show a wide intra-individual variation in day-to-day regulation of energy intake in a free-living environment.
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