Objective: Our aim was to study the associations of childhood lifestyle factors (the frequency of consumption of vegetables, fruit, fish, and meat, butter use on bread, and physical activity) with the metabolic syndrome (MetS) in adulthood.
Research design and methods: The study cohort consisted of 2,128 individuals, 3-18 years of age at the baseline, with a follow-up time of 27 years. We used the average of lifestyle factor measurements taken in 1980, 1983, and 1986 in the analyses. Childhood dietary factors and physical activity were assessed by self-reported questionnaires, and a harmonized definition of MetS was used as the adult outcome.
Results: Childhood vegetable consumption frequency was inversely associated with adult MetS (odds ratio [OR] 0.86 [95% CI 0.77-0.97], P = 0.02) in a multivariable analysis adjusted with age, sex, childhood metabolic risk factors (lipids, systolic blood pressure, insulin, BMI, and C-reactive protein), family history of type 2 diabetes and hypertension, and socioeconomic status. The association remained even after adjustment for adulthood vegetable consumption. Associations with the other childhood lifestyle factors were not found. Of the individual components of MetS, decreased frequency of childhood vegetable consumption predicted high blood pressure (0.88 [0.80-0.98], P = 0.01) and a high triglyceride value (0.88 [0.79-0.99], P = 0.03) after adjustment for the above-mentioned risk factors.
Conclusions: Childhood vegetable consumption frequency is inversely associated with MetS in adulthood. Our findings suggest that a higher intake of vegetables in childhood may have a protective effect on MetS in adulthood.