The study, conducted by Youfa Wang, assistant professor of human nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, along with colleagues from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Institute of Nutrition and Food Hygiene of the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine in Beijing, appears in the March 1 edition of the Journal of Nutrition.
"It's being shown more and more that diet and lifestyle in childhood and adolescence have a potential lifelong effect on risks for many chronic diseases such as obesity, coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and certain types of cancer," Wang said. "We are also observing an alarming increase in childhood obesity not only in industrialized countries but also in many developing countries. It's important to realize that childhood and adolescence are critical periods for individuals to develop healthy eating habits and to lay the foundation for future good health."
The researchers examined data for 984 Chinese children collected from 1991 to 1997. The children, who came from eight provinces of China, ranged in age from six to 13 at the survey's outset. Socioeconomic factors also were evaluated. The diets were categorized as high fat, high carbohydrate, high energy, high vegetable and fruit, low vegetable and fruit and high meat.
About half of those children who initially consumed one of the six diets continued the same eating habits six years later, a statistically significant finding. It was also found that differences in environment (urban vs. rural), family income and the mother's education level were important in predicting the dietary patterns of the children.
For example, the study found that children from urban and high-income families were more likely to maintain a high fat/high meat diet suggesting that economic development in China
Contact: Nan Hoffman
University of Illinois at Chicago