Dietary determinants of fat mass in adolescents

  • Topic: Combination of Cancers
  • Institution: University of Cambridge
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Status: Completed

Scientific abstract

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Hypothesis

(i) To investigate whether a dietary pattern that is high in energy density and fat and low in fibre, is associated with body fatness between 7 and 15 years of age, in a large study of children born in the UK.
(ii) To describe how this dietary pattern and the foods contributing to this pattern track from the age of 7 to 13 years.

Background

Childhood overweight and obesity is a major global health concern. Obesity increases the risk of cancer and a range of other diseases. Dietary intake is an important predictor of obesity risk, as weight gain can only occur if more calories are consistently consumed than required. Studies in adults suggest that dietary energy density (total calories consumed relative to the total weight of food consumed; kcal/g food), total fat intake and fibre intake are important in controlling weight. However, very few long term studies have examined specific dietary factors and obesity risk in children and adolescents and the current evidence on which to base effective interventions is unclear.

Methods

Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), we identified a dietary pattern, or combination of foods, that was associated with greater dietary energy density and fat, and lower fibre intakes at 7, 10 and 13 years of age. This dietary pattern was low in vegetables, fruit, high fibre breakfast cereals and bread, and high in confectionery and chocolate, low fibre bread, cakes and biscuits, crisps and processed meat. This dietary pattern was then related to body fatness.

Key findings

Children who followed this dietary pattern most strongly at 7, 10 or 13 years of age were more likely to have high levels of body fatness, or excess adiposity, between 11 and 15 years. The strength of the association between diet at 13 years and fat mass at 15 years was weaker than dietary measures at 7 or 10 years. This is surprising, given that the shorter follow up period would be expected to result in stronger associations. We hypothesise that this reflects the greater diversity of influences on an adolescent's weight at 13 years, relative to that at younger ages.

Moreover, this dietary pattern showed moderate tracking, indicating that children who followed this dietary pattern at 7 years were likely to follow this pattern at the same level at 10 and 13 years of age. Out of ten food groups examined, vegetables, fruits and full fat milk consumption showed the strongest tracking. In addition, children who consumed the least fruit, high fibre bread and high fibre breakfast cereals at 7 years of age were less likely to change their levels of intake, compared to the highest consumers. Children whose mothers had a lower level of maternal education or were overweight before they were pregnant were more likely to increase their intakes of less healthy foods (white bread, crisps, sweets, processed meats) and decrease their intakes of healthier foods (vegetables, fruit, high fibre bread) between the ages of 7 and 13 years.

Plain language abstract

Hypothesis

(i) To investigate whether a dietary pattern that is high in energy density and fat and low in fibre, is associated with body fatness between 7 and 15 years of age, in a large study of children born in the UK.
(ii) To describe how this dietary pattern and the foods contributing to this pattern track from the age of 7 to 13 years.

Background

Childhood overweight and obesity is a major global health concern. Obesity increases the risk of cancer and a range of other diseases. Dietary intake is an important predictor of obesity risk, as weight gain can only occur if more calories are consistently consumed than required. Studies in adults suggest that dietary energy density (total calories consumed relative to the total weight of food consumed; kcal/g food), total fat intake and fibre intake are important in controlling weight. However, very few long term studies have examined specific dietary factors and obesity risk in children and adolescents and the current evidence on which to base effective interventions is unclear.

Methods

Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), we identified a dietary pattern, or combination of foods, that was associated with greater dietary energy density and fat, and lower fibre intakes at 7, 10 and 13 years of age. This dietary pattern was low in vegetables, fruit, high fibre breakfast cereals and bread, and high in confectionery and chocolate, low fibre bread, cakes and biscuits, crisps and processed meat. This dietary pattern was then related to body fatness.

Key findings

Children who followed this dietary pattern most strongly at 7, 10 or 13 years of age were more likely to have high levels of body fatness, or excess adiposity, between 11 and 15 years. The strength of the association between diet at 13 years and fat mass at 15 years was weaker than dietary measures at 7 or 10 years. This is surprising, given that the shorter follow up period would be expected to result in stronger associations. We hypothesise that this reflects the greater diversity of influences on an adolescent's weight at 13 years, relative to that at younger ages.

Moreover, this dietary pattern showed moderate tracking, indicating that children who followed this dietary pattern at 7 years were likely to follow this pattern at the same level at 10 and 13 years of age. Out of ten food groups examined, vegetables, fruits and full fat milk consumption showed the strongest tracking. In addition, children who consumed the least fruit, high fibre bread and high fibre breakfast cereals at 7 years of age were less likely to change their levels of intake, compared to the highest consumers. Children whose mothers had a lower level of maternal education or were overweight before they were pregnant were more likely to increase their intakes of less healthy foods (white bread, crisps, sweets, processed meats) and decrease their intakes of healthier foods (vegetables, fruit, high fibre bread) between the ages of 7 and 13 years.

Grant publications