Objectives: To determine the differences in macronutrient and food group contribution to total food and energy intakes between Estonian and Swedish under-, normal- and overweight schoolchildren, and to estimate the association between diet and body mass index (BMI).
Design: Cross-sectional comparison between Estonian and Swedish children and adolescents of different BMI groups.
Setting: Twenty-five schools from one region in Estonia and 42 in two regions of central Sweden.
Subjects: In total 2308 participants (1176 from Estonia and 1132 from Sweden), including 1141 children with a mean age of 9.6 +/- 0.5 years and 1167 adolescents with a mean age of 15.5 +/- 0.6 years.
Results: Overweight was more prevalent among younger girls in Sweden (17.0 vs. 8.9%) and underweight among girls of both age groups in Estonia (7.9 vs. 3.5% in younger and 10.5 vs. 5.1% in older age group of girls). Compared with that of normal- and underweight peers, the diet of overweight Estonian children contained more energy as fat (36.8 vs. 31.7%) but less as carbohydrates, and they consumed more milk and meat products. Absolute BMI of Estonian participants was associated positively with energy consumption from eggs and negatively with energy consumption from sweets and sugar. Swedish overweight adolescents tended to consume more energy from protein and milk products. Risk of being overweight was positively associated with total energy intake and energy from fish or meat products. In both countries the association of overweight and biological factors (pubertal maturation, parental BMI) was stronger than with diet.
Conclusion: The finding that differences in dietary intake between under-, normal- and overweight schoolchildren are country-specific suggests that local dietary habits should be considered in intervention projects addressing overweight.