Poor dietary habits could raise disease risk from childhood

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

The study found a minority of children ate the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables, and fibre, vitamin D and iron levels were lower than recommended, while saturated fat, sugar and salt intakes were generally higher
The study found a minority of children ate the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables, and fibre, vitamin D and iron levels were lower than recommended, while saturated fat, sugar and salt intakes were generally higher

Related tags: Nutrition

Children aged 6 to 8 may already be at increased risk of cardiometabolic disease if they eat a lot of low-fat margarine, red meat and sugary drinks and little vegetable oil, according to Finnish research.

The researchers carried out three studies looking at body fat and cardiometabolic disease risk factors and compared these with four-day food diaries from 512 children participating in Finland’s Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) study.

They found that skipping meals was associated with higher risk of overweight, while low vegetable oil intake and increased low-fat margarine, red meat and sugary drink intake was linked to higher cardiometabolic risk, assessed by measuring waist circumference, glucose metabolism, cholesterol, and blood pressure.

“Based on the findings, sticking to regular meals seems to be crucial for preventing overweight and cardiometabolic diseases already in childhood,”​ said lead researcher Aino-Maija Eloranta of the University of Eastern Finland.

The researchers found that children who skipped meals were more likely to have excess body fat – and fewer than half of the children involved in the study ate all three main meals every day, while snacks were a major source of energy and sugar.

When it came to association between cardiometabolic risk and low-fat margarine, the researchers wrote: One explanation for our finding may be that low-fat margarines contain too little fat for a sufficient intake of unsaturated fat. Because the consumption of margarines was relatively low among children in this study, low-fat margarines cannot provide adequate amounts of unsaturated fat.”

Those who ate more protein were also found to be more likely to be overweight, although the study’s authors said more research was necessary to explore this link.

“A high protein intake can also indicate other unhealthy dietary choices that could increase body adiposity,”​ they wrote. “For example, replacing vegetables with meat or replacing water as a between-meal drink with a protein-rich drink, such as milk or a milk-based drink, could expose to excess weight gain.”

A quarter of the children drank sugary drinks every day, and a minority consumed the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables. Dietary fibre, vitamin D and iron intakes were generally lower than recommended, while saturated fat, sugar and sat intakes were generally higher, the researchers found.

 

Sources:

International Journal of Obesity

Vol. 36, pp. 950–955; doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.89

“Dietary factors associated with overweight and body adiposity in Finnish children aged 6–8 years: the PANIC Study”

Authors: A-M Eloranta, V Lindi, U Schwab, T Tompuri, S Kiiskinen, H-M Lakka, T Laitinen and TA Lakka

European Journal of Nutrition

Vol. 53, pp. 1431–1439; doi:10.1007/s00394-013-0646-z

“Dietary factors associated with metabolic risk score in Finnish children aged 6–8 years: the PANIC study”

A. M. Eloranta. V. Lindi, U. Schwab, S. Kiiskinen, T. Vena¨la¨inen, H. M. Lakka, D. E. Laaksonen, T. A. Lakka

 

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Vol. 65, pp. 1211–1218; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2011.113;

“Dietary factors and their associations with socioeconomic background in Finnish girls and boys 6–8 years of age: the PANIC Study”

Authors: AM Eloranta, V Lindi, U Schwab, S Kiiskinen, M Kalinkin, HM Lakka and TA Lakka

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