Tracking of toddler fruit and vegetable preferences to intake and adiposity later in childhood

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This study examined whether toddlers' liking for fruit and vegetables (FV) predicts intake of FV later in childhood, how both relate to childhood adiposity and how these were moderated by factors in infancy. Children in the Gateshead Millennium Study were recruited at birth in 1999–2000. Feeding data collected in the first year were linked to data from a parental questionnaire completed for 456 children at age 2.5 years (30 m) and to anthropometry, skinfolds and bioelectrical impedance and 4-day food diary data collected for 293 of these children at age 7 years. Aged 30 months, 50% of children were reported to like eight different vegetables and three fruits, but at 7 years, children ate a median of only 1.3 (range 0–7) portions of vegetables and 1.0 portion of fruit (0–4). Early appetite, feeding problems and food neophobia showed significant univariate associations with liking for FV aged 30 m, but the number of vegetables toddlers liked was the only independent predictor of vegetable consumption at age 7 years (odds ratio (OR) 1.28 p < 0.001). Liking for fruit aged 30 m also independently predicted fruit intake (OR = 1.31, p = 0.016), but these were also related to deprivation (OR = 2.69, p = 0.001) maternal education (OR = 1.28, p = 0.039) and female gender (OR = 1.8, p = 0.024). Children eating more FV at age 7 years had slightly lower body mass index and skinfolds. An early liking for FV predicted increased later intake, so increasing early exposure to FV could have long term beneficial consequences.

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