Dietary patterns at 4 years old: Association with appetite-related eating behaviours in 7 year-old children

Clin Nutr. 2018 Feb;37(1):189-194. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2016.11.023. Epub 2016 Dec 2.


Background & aims: A possible relationship between children's dietary intake and certain aspects of eating behaviours has been documented, but most studies are cross-sectional and do not consider the complexity of the diet. The aim of this study was to quantify the association between dietary patterns established at 4 years old and appetite-related eating behaviours identified at 7 years old.

Methods: Participants are children from the Generation XXI population-based birth cohort. Trained interviewers collected data at birth, 4 and 7 years old on socio-demographics, health and lifestyles, and anthropometrics. At 4 years old, diet was assessed by a Food Frequency Questionnaire and three dietary patterns were identified by Latent Class Analysis: 'Healthier', 'Snacking' and 'Energy Dense Foods' (EDF). A Portuguese version of the original Children's Eating Behaviour Questionnaire (CEBQ) was self-completed by mothers at 7 year-old. This version has previously shown good psychometric properties and the 8 CEBQ sub-domains were combined into two wider dimensions: Appetite Restraint and Appetite Disinhibition. Generalized linear models were used to estimate the associations after adjustment for maternal characteristics (n = 4358). Interaction effects were tested.

Results: Children belonging to the 'Snacking' (β = 0.329, 95%CI: 0.265; 0.393) and to the 'EDF' (β = 0.138, 95%CI: 0.098; 0.179) dietary patterns at 4 years old scored increasingly higher, respectively, on Appetite Restraint and Appetite Disinhibition dimensions at 7 years old, comparatively to children in the 'Healthier' dietary pattern. Maternal BMI before pregnancy modified the 'Snacking' pattern associations; they were stronger in children from underweight/normal weight mothers for Appetite Restraint and present only among overweight/obese mothers for Appetite Disinhibition.

Conclusions: This study suggests that children following less healthy dietary patterns early in life have more often disordered eating behaviours in later childhood. Maternal weight status may influence these associations.

Keywords: CEBQ; Children; Cohort studies; Feeding behaviours; Food habits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data
  • Snacks / physiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult