Being a third year Bachelor’s student means you will have to write a Bachelor’s thesis whether you like it or not. Although the process is not always fun (to be totally honest: it can be terrible sometimes), I have enjoyed writing my Bachelor’s thesis. First of all because I could write about a topic which really has my interest and secondly, doing research is more fun than I thought. To be totally honest, beforehand, I thought that doing research was boring. However, I found out that I liked it more than I thought. Having a good supervisor also helps of course, so she definitely needs some credits as well!
Since I am interested in lifestyle and public health, I ended up at the department of epidemiology of the UMCG (University Medical Centre Groningen). Currently, there is a large study going on about the determinants of childhood obesity. In other words, what determines whether a child develops obesity or not. This is a very relevant question nowadays, since more children are becoming overweight and obese every day. If we can figure out what causes childhood obesity and what protects a child from becoming obese, we will be able to fight the obesity pandemic. For the study, children born within a period of 1 year in a certain region in the Netherlands are followed from birth into adulthood. Since much data was available, I was able to study the dietary habits and physical activity patterns of 2310 children at the age of five. I studied the differences in dietary habits and physical activity patterns between children who received breastfeeding as an infant and children who did not receive breastfeeding as an infant. The reason for that is the following: research has shown that breastfeeding has a protective effect on the development of childhood obesity. However, it has been suggested that parents who decide to breastfeed their child, may have a healthier lifestyle in general. They are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding, but also of a healthy diet and regular exercise. As a result, a part of the protective effect of breastfeeding may be explained by a healthier lifestyle, and thus the protective effect of breastfeeding may be less strong than assumed. My results showed that although there were no differences in physical activity, some differences in dietary habits could be observed. Although further research will be needed, this may have some implication. Speaking about further research: my supervisor was very enthusiastic about my thesis, she suggested to try to get it published. Although that process is still going on, I might publish an article as a Bachelor’s student (together with a PhD student), which I think is really cool!