The results were collected by studying the dietary habits, eating behaviors and dietary determinants of excess body fat and cardiometabolic risk in 512 Finnish boys and girls between the ages of six and eight that participated in the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study. The study accessed cardiometabolic risk by a continuous metabolic risk score that was computed by using Z-scores of waist circumference, fasting serum insulin, fasting plasma glucose, triglycerides and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and the mean of systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
The study revealed that:
- Children who skipped meals and ate more protein were more likely to have excess body fat.
- Uncontrolled eating behavior eating fast, emotional overeating and a lower satiety responsiveness were associated with higher body fat.
- Most childrens diets were far from ideal. With less than half of the children eating all three main meals breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Instead, snacks were a major source of energy and sucrose.
- A minority of the children consumed fruit, vegetables and berries as recommended.
- As many as a quarter of the children consumed sugary drinks daily.
- The intakes of salt, sucrose and saturated fat were higher.
- The daily intakes of iron, dietary fiber, and vitamin D were lower than recommended among the children.
"The more of these factors are present, the higher the risk," says Ms Aino-Maija Eloranta, MHSc, who presented the results in her doctoral thesis at the University of Eastern Finland. Based on the findings, sticking to regular meals seems to be crucial for preventing overweight and cardiometabolic diseases already in childhood. In addition, parents need to provide their children with better dietary choices - fat-free milk and water instead of sugary drinks, and more fish instead of red meat at meals.