Unhealthy dietary patterns established in infancy track to mid-childhood: The EU childhood obesity project

Veronica Luque, Joaquin Escribano, Ricardo Closa-Monasterolo, Marta Zaragoza-Jordana, Natàlia Ferré, Veit Grote, Berthold Koletzko, Martina Totzauer, Elvira Verduci, Alice ReDionigi, Dariusz Gruszfeld, Piotr Socha, Deborah Rousseaux, Melissa Moretti, Wendy Oddy, Gina L. Ambrosini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Dietary habits established in infancy may persist into adulthood and determine long-term health. Objectives: The aims of this work were to describe dietary patterns, predictors of adherence to them, and their tracking from ages 1 to 8 y in European children. Methods: Three-day food diaries were prospectively collected at ages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 y. Foods were allocated to 1 of 29 food groups, which were included in exploratory factor analyses at each children's age. The tracking of patterns through childhood was assessed by an estimated general equation model. Results: At age 1 y (n = 633), 2 patterns were identified. One was labeled "core foods" (CORE), since it was positively loaded for vegetables, fish, olive oil, andwhite and red meat, and negatively loaded for ready-to-eat infant products, sugar, and confectioneries. The other was positively loaded for saturated spreads, sugar, fruit juices, and confectioneries, and negatively loaded for olive oil, fish, and cow milk; this was labeled as the "poor-quality fats and added sugars" (F & S) pattern. From ages 2 to 8 y, 3 patterns were repeatedly identified: CORE, F & S, and a "high protein sources" (PROT) pattern that was positively loaded for milk, flavored milks, fish, eggs, white and processed meat, chips, and olive oil, and negatively loaded for fresh fruits at almost all time points. Of those children in the highest quartiles of the CORE, F & S, and PROT patterns at 2 y, 45%, 72%, and 36%, respectively, remained in the highest quartile at 8 y [OR = 2.01 (1.08, 3.8), OR = 3.6 (1.5, 8.4) and OR = 0.80 (0.4,1.6), respectively; P = 0.510]. Conclusions: Dietary patterns are established between 1 and 2 y of age and track into mid-childhood. A dietary pattern characterized by added sugars, unhealthy fats, and poor consumption of fish and olive oil was the most stable throughout childhood. Further analyses will reveal whether those dietary patterns are associated with metabolic disease risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)752-759
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


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