Associations between dietary patterns, eating behaviours, and body composition and adiposity in 3-year-old children of mothers with obesity

Kathryn V. Dalrymple, Angela C. Flynn, Paul T. Seed, Annette L. Briley, Majella O'Keeffe, Keith M. Godfrey, Lucilla Poston

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Background: The relationships between eating habits, behaviours, and the development of obesity in preschool children is not well established. Objective: As children of mothers with obesity are themselves at risk of obesity, we examined these relationships in a cohort of 482 three-year-old children of mothers with obesity from the UK Pregnancy Better Eating and Activity Trial (UPBEAT). Method: Dietary patterns were derived using factor analysis of an 85-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). Eating behaviours were assessed using the Children's Eating Behaviour Questionnaire (CEBQ). Measures of body composition included age-specific BMI cut-offs, WHO z scores, sum of skinfolds, waist and arm circumferences, and body fat percentage. Using adjusted regression analysis, we examined associations between dietary patterns, eating behaviours, and measures of body composition. Results: Three distinct dietary patterns were defined: “healthy/prudent,” “African/Caribbean,” and “processed/snacking.” The “processed/snacking” pattern was associated with greater odds of obesity; OR 1.53 (95% CI, 1.07-2.19). The “African/Caribbean” and the “healthy/prudent” patterns were associated with a lower arm circumference (β = −0.23 cm [−0.45 to −0.01]) and sum of skinfolds (β = −1.36 cm [−2.88 to −0.37]), respectively. Lower enjoyment of food and food responsiveness, and greater slowness in eating and satiety, were associated with lower arm and waist circumferences, WHO z scores, and obesity (all P <.05). Conclusion: In children of mothers with obesity, those who had higher scores on a “processed/snacking” dietary pattern had greater odds of obesity. In contrast, slowness in eating was associated with lower measures of body composition. These novel findings highlight modifiable behaviours in high-risk preschool children which could contribute to public health strategies for prevention of childhood obesity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12608
Number of pages11
JournalPediatric Obesity
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
K.M.G. reports other from Nestle Nutrition Institute, grants from Nestec, outside the submitted work. In addition, K.M.G. has a patent Phenotype prediction issued, a patent Predictive use of CpG methylation issued, a patent Maternal Nutrition Composition pending, and a patent vitamin B6 in maternal administration for the prevention of overweight or obesity in the offspring issued. L.P. is part of an academic consortium that has received research funding from Abbott Nutrition and Danone. The other authors declare no conflict of interest.

Funding Information:
We thank all staff in the UPBEAT consortium, and we are most grateful to all the women and their children who took part in the UPBEAT study. This work was supported by the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007‐2013), project EarlyNutrition (grant agreement no. 289346) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) (UK) Programme Grants for Applied Research Programme (RP‐0407‐10452). The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Health Service, the NIHR, the Department of Health, or any other listed funders. Support was also provided from the Biomedical Research Centre at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust and King's College London, the Chief Scientist Office Scotland, Guy's and St Thomas' Charity and Tommy's Charity (registered charity no. 1060508). The funders had no role in study design, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, or writing of the final report. The corresponding author had access to all the data in the study and had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication. L.P., P.T.S., A.C.F., and A.L.B. are funded by Tommy's Charity, and K.V.D. is supported by the British Heart Foundation FS/17/71/32953. K.M.G. is supported by the UK Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12011/4), the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR Senior Investigator [NF‐SI‐0515‐10042] and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre), the European Union (Erasmus+ Capacity‐Building ENeASEA Project and Seventh Framework Programme [FP7/2007‐2013], projects EarlyNutrition and ODIN [grant agreements 289346 and 613977]), the US National Institute On Aging of the National Institutes of Health (award no. U24AG047867), and the UK ESRC and BBSRC (award no. ES/M00919X/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 World Obesity Federation

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • childhood obesity
  • dietary patterns
  • eating behaviours
  • maternal obesity


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