Background Otitis media (OM), or middle ear infections, are one of the most common diseases during early childhood. OM has been linked to changes in food preferences through potential effects on taste signalling, and thereby, to increased weight. Objectives We investigated the associations between OM, taste sensitivity and adiposity across two studies in early childhood and conducted exploratory post-hoc analyses of sex differences. Methods Study I assessed 101 children between 2 and 3 years old (59.0% boys). Children were weighed and their height was measured to estimate BMI centiles. Waist measurements were taken to calculate Waist-to-Height Ratio (WHtR). Child's taste sensitivity was assessed using Short Sensory Profile questionnaire. Study II included 95 children between 5 and 9 years old (52.9% boys). Children were weighed and their height was measured to calculate their BMI. Children took part in a Sucrose Detection Threshold (SDT) assessment to establish their taste sensitivity. In both studies parents reported child's history of OM. Results In Study I OM was associated with higher WHtR (p=0.047), though this was observed among girls (p=0.011), but not boys (p=0.53). OM was not linked to BMI centiles or taste sensitivity (all p>0.05). In Study II children with OM history had higher BMI centiles (p=0.010), and this effect was stronger in boys (p=0.037) than girls (p=0.17). Multiple OM exposure increased the odds of overweight by 6.2 times (95%CI [1.46, 26.50]). Boys with multiple OM exposure had higher SDT (p=0.022) compared to boys not exposed to OM, akin to lower taste sensitivity. This was not observed in girls (p=0.67). Conclusions OM history was associated with higher BMI among 5–9 year old children and this may be linked to taste impairments. This association was not observed in 2–3 year old children. Potential sex differences in these associations require further investigation.
Bibliographical note© 2019, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Funding: Feeding For Life Foundation Grant Reference 11-1170, International Foundation for Promotion of Nutrition Research (ISFE) Grant Reference 15818.
- Otitis media
- Middle ear infection
- Childhood obesity
- Taste sensitivity