Researchers conducting a lunch-buffet study involving more than 200 kids between the ages of 8 and 17 found that boys routinely eat more compared to girls of the same age.
The researchers also found that boys in their mid-teens were the most ravenous, downing an average of 2,000 calories during the lunch hour.
Senior researcher Dr. Jack A. Yanovski, of the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, says the pattern makes sense, given that boys usually hit their growth spurt in late puberty, putting on height and muscle mass.
Although teenage boys are known for packing away food, there really has not been any real evidence showing this as normal. “There’s a lot of folk wisdom that says boys can eat prodigious amounts, but we haven’t had much data,” Yanovski told Reuters Health.
For the study, Yanovski and his colleagues had 204 boys and girls 8 to 17 years old come to a lunch buffet on two separate days. The first day, researchers told the kids to eat as much as they normally would during lunch. On the second day, they were instructed to eat as much as they wanted.
The researchers found that boys ate more than girls at each stage of puberty. The same was true for prepubescent kids, with boys averaging nearly 1,300 lunchtime calories, compared to 900 among girls.
The biggest increase in appetite for girls came during early- to mid-puberty, between the ages of 10 and 13. Girls consumed an average of 1,300 lunchtime calories, but that figure was only slightly higher among girls in late puberty.
Yanovski said that pattern is in line with girls’ development, as they tend to have their most significant growth spurts in early- to mid-puberty.
Boys, however, tend to develop later; and their calorie needs appear to shoot up drastically in late puberty — between the ages of 14 and 17.
Boys showed little change in calorie intake between pre- and mid-puberty. But those going through late puberty had an intake of as much as 2,000 lunchtime calories. Even for active children, those 2,000 calories would be most of their daily energy needs.
Yanovski said that parents of teenage sons should not worry about a sudden surge in eating by their kids, as long as they are healthy and at normal weight.
However, he added, boys who are overweight should have more limits on how many calories they are taking in. Studies suggest that a majority of overweight children become overweight, or obese, adults.
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