The effect of maternal smoking status, educational level and age on food and nutrient intakes in preschool children: results from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jul;57(7):854-64. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601619.


Objective: Studies in adults have demonstrated that smoking status is associated with dietary quality, with smokers tending to have diets that conform less closely to guidelines on healthy eating than nonsmokers. However, there is very little information on the relation between children's dietary quality and parental smoking status. The objective of this study was to investigate the relation between maternal smoking status and nutrient intake in preschool children, allowing for the possible confounding effects of maternal educational level and age at delivery.

Subjects: In total, 993 children aged 18 months participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

Methods: Diet was assessed by a 3-day food record. Maternal smoking status and educational level and age at delivery were assessed by questionnaire.

Results: In multivariate analysis, the children of smokers had significantly higher intakes of monounsaturated fatty acids and starch, and lower intakes of nonstarch polysaccharides (NSP). They were also less likely to have eaten poultry, buns, cakes and puddings, wholemeal bread and fruit, and more likely to have drunk sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Intakes of NSP and most vitamins and minerals increased significantly with increasing maternal education. Children of more highly educated mothers were less likely to have eaten chocolate, crisps and white bread, and more likely to have consumed wholemeal bread, fruit and fruit juice.

Conclusions: The children of nonsmokers and more highly educated mothers consumed a diet that conformed more closely to current guidelines on healthy eating. These dietary differences may contribute to the excess of ill-health observed in the children of smokers and of less-educated mothers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Diet Records
  • Diet Surveys
  • Diet* / standards
  • Educational Status*
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Smoking* / adverse effects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires