The study highlights the health risks for children frequently confronted with an abundance of energy dense, high-calorie foods.

"Of the 37 children, who took part in the study, all displayed eating in the absence of hunger, even though more than 80 percent reported being full or very full just 15 minutes earlier," said nutrition researcher Holly Harris from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

In the study of three and four-year-olds, 100 percent of children opted for a sweet or savoury snack despite eating a filling healthy lunch only 15 minutes prior.

The study also looked at young children's eating habits in the absence of being hungry and how parental feeding control impacted behaviour in both girls and boys.

"An impaired ability to respond to signs of feeling full and being unable to self-control food intake in an environment where children are frequently faced with high-energy foods is likely to have undesirable ramifications on a child's energy balance and weight status," Harris added.

She said pressure by mothers to eat was also positively linked to higher levels of snack food intake in the absence of being hungry, but this was a result found only with boys.

The findings appeared in the journal Eating Behaviors.

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