Primary school children who don't like eating fruit and vegetables are 13 times more likely to develop functional constipation than children who do, scientists have said.
Drinking less than 400ml of fluid a day also significantly increases the risk, according to the study.
Moon Fai Chan, assistant professor at the National University of Singapore, teamed up with Yuk Ling Chan, from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, to study the diet and toileting habits of 383 children aged from 8 to 10 from a school in Hong Kong.
51 per cent were boys and children who were on regular medication or who paid regular hospital or clinic visits were excluded. 70 per cent of the children who took part in the study were 10-years-old, 22 per cent were 9 and eight per cent were 8.
"A number of studies have suggested that functional constipation - which is due to dietary habits, environmental habits and psychosocial factors rather than a particular health problem - is getting worse among school-age children" Chan said.
Key findings of the study included:
7 per cent of the children who took part suffered from functional constipation and there were clear dietary differences between the children who did and did not have problems.
Girls were more likely to have functional constipation than boys and 9-year-olds were more likely to report problems.
Children who only drank 200ml to 400ml of fluid a day were eight times more likely to experience problems than children who drank more.
Children who said they did not like fruit or vegetables were 13 times more likely to suffer from functional constipation than children who did.
"When we compared our findings with previous studies we found that the levels of functional constipation among Hong Kong school children was higher than those in the USA and UK, but similar to Italy" says Dr Chan.
"We hope that this study will help to raise awareness of functional constipation, which can cause children real physical and emotional distress and seriously affect their quality of life," says Dr Chan.
The study has been published in the December issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing.