Body fat percentage of children varies according to their diet composition

J Am Diet Assoc. 1997 Sep;97(9):981-6. doi: 10.1016/S0002-8223(97)00237-X.


Objective: To ascertain the association between diet composition and body fat percentage in 9- and 10-year-old children. Also, to examine the influence of gender, total energy intake, fitness, physical activity, and parental body mass on the relationship between diet composition and adiposity.

Design: Diet composition was assessed using the National Cancer Institute food frequency questionnaire, and adiposity was measured using the average of results determined using two skinfold equations. Fitness levels and physical activity were ascertained using the 1-mile run/walk test and a self-report 15-item scale, respectively.

Subjects: A sample of 262 children (162 boys and 100 girls, mean age = 9.8 +/- 0.5 years) participated.

Statistical analysis: Regression analysis was used to determine the extent to which diet composition contributed to adiposity without statistical control for any potentially confounding variables. Partial correlations were calculated to assess the relationship between macronutrient intake and adiposity after potential confounders (gender, total energy intake, physical fitness, and parental body mass) were controlled statistically.

Results: Energy intake was positively related to adiposity. Fat intake, calculated as a percentage of total energy, was also positively related to adiposity, before and after control for potential confounding variables. Percentage of energy derived from carbohydrate was inversely related to adiposity, before and after controlling for potential confounders.

Applications: These findings indicate that the macronutrient intake of children, particularly dietary fat and carbohydrate intake, may play a role in adiposity, independent of the influence of total energy intake, gender, physical fitness, and parental body mass index.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Diet Records
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Parents
  • Physical Fitness
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats