Emotional Symptoms and Dietary Patterns in Early Adolescence: A School-Based Follow-up Study

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To examine the relationship between early emotional symptoms and dietary patterns over 3 years in a school-based sample.


Three-year longitudinal prospective study.


Thirteen schools in Reus, Spain.


From a sample of 562 preadolescents with and without emotional symptoms, 165 were observed and were classified as either showing (n = 100) or not showing emotional symptoms (n = 65).

Main Outcome Measure:

Emotional symptoms were assessed at baseline and after 1 and 3 years. In the third year, data were collected on food consumption, adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MD), and physical activity.


Dietary patterns were created by principal component analysis. Multivariate logistic regression was conducted with P < .05 considered significant.


Girls with emotional symptoms scored significantly lower in assessments for MD (score of 5.41 ± 2.19) and physical activity (score of 4.97 ± 2.05) than did girls who had no emotional symptoms (scores: MD, 6.19 ± 1.67; physical activity: 5.86 ± 1.94). Approximately 39.68% of girls with emotional symptoms showed high adherence to a sweet and fatty food pattern. After adjusted logistic regression, girls with emotional symptoms were 4 times as likely to have high adherence to a sweet and fatty food pattern (odds ratio, 4.79; 95% confidence interval, 1.55–15.10). No differences were observed among boys.

Conclusions and Implications:

Girls with emotional symptoms during early adolescence have high adherence to a pattern rich in sweet and fat foods and low adherence to MD, and engage in low levels of physical activity. These findings highlight the importance of managing emotional distress to prevent it from having a negative effect on eating behavior.

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