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Research Updates | Obesity / Overweight

What dietary pattern is linked to overweight in children and teenagers?

03 / 06 / 16

Abrosini GL, Johns DJ, Northstone K, Emmett PM et al. J Nutr. 2016; Mar 9: 778-784

This joint Australian and UK research team examined data from 6722 children participating in the ALSPAC (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children). They aimed to identify dietary patterns (DPs) characterized by high sugar content, high fat content, or both and their longitudinal associations with adiposity during childhood and adolescence. They found two significant dietary pattern relationships: higher fat mass index (FMI)  for age status (z-scores) in DP1 was associated with higher dietary energy density, lower fibre density and greater percent energy from total fat and free sugars; and higher z-scores for DP2 were associated with higher energy density, lower percent energy from total fat and higher percent energy from free sugars. DP1 (high fat, high sugar) was associated with a mean increase in the fat mass and greater odds of excess adiposity and characterized by higher intakes of confectionery and chocolate, cakes and biscuits, SSBs, and low-fiber bread, and lower intakes of fruit, vegetables, and high-fiber bread and cereals. DP2 (high sugar, low fat) was not associated with adiposity and characterised by  high intakes SSBs, fruit juices, and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals (low-fiber breakfast cereals) and low intakes of whole milk, margarines and oils, cheese, and crisps.

These results suggest that it is diets containing both high sugar and high fat content that increase risk for the development of obesity in children. These results underline a food based approach to target reduction in discretionary foods to reduce risk of obesity in children and adolescents.