The Association between Portion Sizes from High-Energy-Dense Foods and Body Composition in European Adolescents: The HELENA Study

Nutrients. 2021 Mar 16;13(3):954. doi: 10.3390/nu13030954.


Obesity prevalence has been simultaneously increasing with high consumption of large food portion sizes (PS). However, there is scarce information on PS of energy-dense (ED) foods as a potential risk factor of obesity in adolescents. In the present study, we investigate the association between the PS of the most ED foods and body composition. A sample of 1889 adolescents (54.4% females) from the Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence cross-sectional multicenter study (HELENA-CSS) study were included. Most ED foods (e.g., cheese) were selected according to higher fat and/or sugar content and low fiber and water. Linear and ordinal logistic regression models were adjusted for age, physical activity, total energy intake (TEI), and socioeconomic status (SES). Analysis was performed both in those adolescents reporting plausible energy intake according to the approach of Goldberg et al. and in the whole sample. In male plausible reporters, PS from "breakfast cereals" showed a significant and positive association with BMI (β = 0.012; 0.048). PS from "carbonated soft drinks" in males (OR = 1.001; 95% CI 1.000; 1.002) and "bread and rolls" in females (OR = 1.002; 95% CI 1.000; 1.004) were associated with higher probability of having obesity, while "sweet bakery products" were associated with lower probability of having obesity (OR = 0.996; 95% CI 0.991; 0.999) in females. The present study suggests association between PS of ED foods and obesity in European adolescents. Prospective studies are needed to examine the effect of prolonged exposure to large PS and obesity development.

Keywords: Europe; adolescent; body mass index; energy dense food; fat mass index; food portion size; obesity.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Energy Intake*
  • Europe
  • Exercise
  • Food / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pediatric Obesity / etiology
  • Portion Size / adverse effects*
  • Socioeconomic Factors