Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet among School Children and Adolescents Living in Northern Italy and Unhealthy Food Behaviors Associated to Overweight

Nutrients. 2018 Sep 18;10(9):1322. doi: 10.3390/nu10091322.


The purposes of this study were to evaluate the differences in Mediterranean diet and its components among primary and secondary school children and adolescents living in northern Italy, and the associations with the weight status. Adherence was assessed by the KIDMED (Mediterranean Diet Quality Index) questionnaire on 669 subjects (6⁻16 years) attending five schools of Novara. The adherence was poor in 16.7%, average in 63.7%, and high in 19.6% of the students. Poor adherence was more frequent in primary than in secondary schools (20.7% vs. 13.7%, p < 0.04). Some unhealthy behaviors were more prevalent in younger children. Children of other ethnic origins had a mixed behavior, choosing both traditional healthy and unhealthy foods. Besides male gender and primary school, in Italian children, the risk of overweight was directly associated with eating at fast-food restaurants (OR: 1.890, CI 95% 1.002⁻3.563), and inversely with consumption of vegetables more than once a day (OR: 0.588, CI 95% 0.349⁻0.991), and olive oil at home (OR: 0.382, CI 95% 0.176⁻0.826). In children of other ethnic origins, this risk was associated with skipping breakfast (OR: 16.046, CI 95% 1.933⁻133.266), or consuming commercial baked good or pastries for breakfast (OR: 10.255, CI 95% 1.052⁻99.927). The overall KIDMED score correlated with height (β: 0.108; p < 0.005). Poor food quality is replacing the Mediterranean dietary pattern in children and adolescents, in particular among younger children. Because the risk of overweight was associated with different components of the Mediterranean diet depending on ethnic origins, tailored nutritional programs remain a need.

Keywords: Mediterranean diet; adolescents; children; obesity; questionnaire.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Age Factors
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Choice Behavior
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet, Healthy*
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status
  • Nutritive Value
  • Pediatric Obesity / diagnosis
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pediatric Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Pediatric Obesity / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors