Energy distribution patterns in Australia and its relationship to age, gender and body mass index among children and adults

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Aim:To assess daily energy distribution among Australians, provide evidence on the relative importance of eating occasions to energy intake and its relationship to age, gender and body mass index.Methods:Dietary data collected via 24-hour recalls during the 1995 National Nutrition Survey (n = 10 851 adults) and the 2007 National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (4837 = children) were analysed. Percentage of total energy intake was tabulated according to time, eating occasions, body mass index, age and gender.Results:The Australians consumed three main meals and two to three snacks, with the highest energy intake at ‘dinner’. Among children, ‘breakfast’ accounted for 15% of the energy, ‘lunch’ 19%, ‘dinner’ 30% and ‘snacks’ 35%. For adults, energy from ‘breakfast’ was 14%, ‘lunch’ 21%, ‘dinner’ 37% and ‘snacks’ 28%. Younger children and older adults consumed a lower per cent energy during the later part of the day. No difference in energy distribution was observed by gender. No difference in body mass index was observed for children and inconsistent differences were seen for adults.Conclusion:A high proportion of energy was consumed at ‘dinner’, but snacks were also an important source of energy intake. A variety of energy distribution patterns appear to be moderated by age. Older children consumed significantly less at breakfast and more snacks than younger children. In contrast, older adults consumed more energy at breakfast and less as snacks compared with younger adults. The findings indicate some key messages for informing primary prevention strategies among specific age groups including the need to attain a more even distribution of energy throughout the day.

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