Eating habits in prescholl children: a longitudinal approach to the identification of determinants and effects on body composition

Carla Lopes

Principal Investigator

Integrated Member (PhD)

Type of project:




Participating institutions:

Instituto de Saúde Pública da Universidade do Porto (ISPUP)
Unidade de Investigação e Desenvolvimento Cardiovascular (UIDC/FM/UP)
Centro de Estatística e Aplicações (CEA/FC/UL)

Start date:


(Predicted) End date:


Total budget:


Research line:

L1 - Life Course Research and Healthy Ageing

Research lab:

Nutrition and Cardiometabolic Health


The acquisition of food behaviours during the first years of life is dependent of different determinants integrated in a complex model far from being understood.
In populations not exposed to a food restriction, in the first three years of life, energy intake regulation is effective, but other social and environmental factors determine the establishment of eating habits that could persist in older ages. These factors could be characteristics, attitudes and preferences of parents and caregivers, that influence for example food availability and the context of food offers and which could influence child’s taste and preferences.
Considering the burden of obesity, the challenge is not only know what children should eat to avoid obesity, but essentially how we can get children to eat a “healthy” diet (1).
Until now, the research on subjects includes mainly cross-sectional information and there is little information from longitudinal population based cohorts following childrens food habits in the first years of life. Also some of the lack of consistent information related with parents’ influence, namely on parental control, could be related with the absence of consensus about the instruments to assess it. The choice of an instrument to use in Portugal needs the adaptation of different tools used in other populations. </p>
<p>Therefore, the first objective of this project aims to adapt of two different instruments, the child feeding questionnaire (2), and another tool developed to assess overt and covert parents´ control (3).</p>
<p>After that, we intend to evaluate determinants in the development and establishment of food habits and preferences in first stages of life and how it will affect the body fat composition at 4 years. This project will include information collected by Generation XXI cohort study, a population-based birth cohort assembled in Porto. The all cohort comprises 8654 babies and their mothers enrolled into the baseline evaluation (participation of 70% of eligible women). The present study are going to use only information on food habits performed in sub-samples at 6 months (n=1620 babies), at 15 months (n=1014 babies) and at 2 years (n=758 babies). For 489 babies at 2 years, a food diary of 2 days (1 at week and 1 at weekend) was reported by child caregivers. The current project will also include new information on food habits and anthropometrics from a follow-up at 4 years.</p>
<p>With this project, using data on different periods on early life (6, 15, 24 months and 4 years) and using complex statistical models, we will provide new contributions to answer to scientific questions that need clarification. We propose to develop education material based, on project results hoping have an important contribution on public health and in the planning policies, considering the current burden of obesity. </p>

Research team