Obesity has become a global menace not just in adults but in the young as well.
The global obesity burden among children and adolescents is estimated to be 1 in 10.
A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data gathered between 2007 and 2008 reveals that one in three children is either overweight or obese. This has profound public health implications in terms of chronic disease prevention and lifespan.
It must be noted that previous studies have reported that children who eat vegetarian foods are thinner and leaner in comparison to those who take non -vegetarian foods.
The main purpose of this study is to examine the link between being overweight and the intake of several food groups by children and adolescents.
Height and weight measurements of 1764 children and adolescents, between the ages of 6-19 yrs who were students of 12th grade at 16 Seventh-Day Adventist (Adventist) schools and 13 public schools in Southern California were taken.
A validated 106-item non-quantitative food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) was used in the study to obtain dietary information.
Logistic regression models were employed to compute the risk of overweight in accordance to the consumption of these foods.
The questionnaire did not enquire about the number of hours of daily TV watching or amount of hours spent in doing physical activity daily.
All of the foods consumed (except diet soda and three non-conforming foods) were categorized into seven food groups by a Registered Dietitian -
• Grains (e.g. cereals, crackers, bread, biscuit, muffin, pancakes, French toast, waffles, macaroni, noodles, spaghetti, meat substitute products, granola bar, pop tart),
• Nuts (nuts and peanut butter),
• Fruits (e.g. apple, citrus, banana, other fruits, canned fruits, raisins, dried fruits, orange juice, other fruit juice),
• Vegetables (e.g. vegetable salad, carrot sticks, celery sticks, potatoes, green beans, refried beans, other beans, cooked vegetable),
• Dairy (e.g. whole milk, chocolate milk, cottage cheese, cheeses, yogurt, pudding, ice cream, frozen yogurt, milk shake),
• Meats (e.g. eggs, real wieners, hamburger patty, steak, roast beef, fried chicken, chicken, bacon, sausage links, bologna, ham, pork chops, fish)
• Low nutrient-dense foods (LNDF) (e.g. punch, donuts, sweet roll, chips, French fries, other fried potatoes, candy bars, other candy bar, cookies, cake, pie, twinkie, popsicle).
The frequency of consumption for each of the food groups was computed and ranked using quartiles, while tertiles were used for nuts.
Age and gender- specific 85th percentile for BMI of the study population was used as a cut-off point to identify children and adolescents as being overweight.
Results & Discussion
The frequency of consumption of grains, nuts, vegetables and LNDF were inversely proportional to the risk of being overweight.
This study revealed that specific plant-based food groups may have a protective role in preventing weight increase among children and adolescents, while intake of dairy products may be linked to weight increase.
Although fruits and vegetables are both plant-based food groups, the researchers observed a protective effect regarding weight gain only with the intake of vegetables, and not with fruit group.
The study also established an inverse association between nut consumption and risk of being overweight in children and adolescents. Plausible reasons include increased BMI, enhanced satiety and decreased consumption of other foods.
The study recommends reducedintake of fatty dairy products and promotes the use of plant -based foods to prevent obesity in children and adolescents. Therefore, plant-based foods should be encouraged in the school food programs at all levels.
The risk of child and adolescent overweight is related to types of food consumed;
Vichuda et al; Nutrition Journal 2011.