Comparison of childhood size and dietary differences at age 4 years between three European countries

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Obesity in childhood is very common in Europe. It may be linked to diet, and intakes of protein and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have been investigated. The study aims to investigate child size and dietary differences at the age of 4 years between three European countries and to assess dietary adequacy.


A total of 161 4-year-old children from Spain, Germany and Hungary, whose mothers participated in a pregnancy micronutrient supplementation trial, were included in this analysis. Child size was assessed by standardised anthropometry and diet calculated from parent-completed food frequency questionnaires. Adequacy of the diet was evaluated using US guidelines.


The Spanish children had a higher mean body mass index (BMI) (16.4 ± 1.5) compared with German (15.7 ± 1.0) and Hungarian children (14.9 ± 1.4, P<0.01). In Spanish children, dietary intakes were higher in animal protein density, particularly from dairy foods, were little different in total protein density and slightly lower in n-6 PUFA density compared with the intakes in the other groups. Dietary intakes of most children (% contribution to energy) were higher than those recommended for protein, saturated fat and added sugar.


Spanish children had a higher mean BMI compared with German and Hungarian children. Diets taken by Spanish children may be more obesogenic than those taken by German or Hungarian children. In the present study, many children in all three countries were consuming diets that were high in protein, saturated fat and sugar.

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