Components of the diet associated with child adiposity: a cross-sectional study

J Am Coll Nutr. 2011 Dec;30(6):536-46. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2011.10720000.


Objective: This study sought to determine which components of youths' diets were related to adiposity while controlling for potential often-neglected confounders such as moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and dietary reporting error. Secondary goals of this study were to determine the extent to which MVPA confounded the associations between diet and adiposity and whether associations between diet and adiposity would differ depending on reporting error.

Methods: An ethnically diverse urban sample of 342 children aged 9-10 years and 323 adolescents aged 17-18 years were recruited for this cross-sectional study. Body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) were measured in the school; dietary assessment included three 24-hour recalls via telephone in the evenings, and MVPA assessment included 5 days of accelerometry. Over (n = 68), under (n = 250), or plausible (n = 347) dietary intake reporters were identified with the Huang calculation method. Linear regression assessed the relationship between adiposity indicators (BMI z-score and WC) and components of the diet (energy intake, food groups, macronutrients) after controlling for reporting error, demographic variables, and MVPA.

Results: When dietary reporting error and potential confounders such as MVPA and demographic variables were controlled, energy intake (EI), vegetables, refined grains, total fat, total protein, and total carbohydrate were positively related to BMI z-score and WC and artificially sweetened beverages to WC. MVPA was a significant confounder. For BMI z-score, but not WC, relationships and strength of these relationships differed depending on dietary reporting error group (plausible, underreporter, overreporter).

Conclusions: Among plausible reporters, as expected, EI, refined grains, and all macronutrients were positively related to adiposity; however, artificially sweetened beverages and vegetables, which are low-energy-dense foods, were also positively related to adiposity. Reporting error interfered with associations between diet and BMI z-score but not WC, suggesting WC is a more robust measure of adiposity in relation to diet.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity*
  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Energy Intake
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Waist Circumference


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Sweetening Agents