Skip to main content Accesibility Help

Familial intergenerational and maternal aggregation patterns in nutrient intakes in the Lifeways Cross-Generation Cohort Study

  • Aakash Shrivastava (a1), Celine Murrin (a1), Mary Rose Sweeney (a2), Patricia Heavey (a1) and Cecily C Kelleher (a1)...

The current study prospectively examines the intra-uterine hypothesis by comparing maternal, paternal and grandparental lineage influences on children's diet and also maternal–child aggregation patterns during pregnancy and early childhood.


Prenatal dietary information was available for expectant mothers, fathers and up to four grandparents through a detailed validated semi-quantitative FFQ. At 6-year follow-up, when children averaged 5 years of age, dietary information was re-collected for mothers and a subset of maternal grandmothers using the same FFQ. Child's FFQ version was used for children. Anthropometric and sociodemographic variables were also collected.


Three-generation familial cohort representative of the contemporary Irish national population.


Children aged 5 years (n 567) and their parents and grandparents.


Associations for energy, macronutrient and fibre intakes were compared using Pearson's correlations, intra-class correlations (ICC) and linear regression models, adjusted for energy and potential confounders. Significant, moderate-strength positive correlations were observed for nutrient intakes in children's nuclear families (ICC (range) = 0·22–0·28). The father–child associations (r (range) = 0·13–0·20) were weaker than the mother–child associations (r (range) = 0·14–0·33). In general, associations were stronger for maternal postnatal intake–child intake than for maternal prenatal intake–child intake, except for percentage of energy from fat (adjusted β = 0·16, 95 % CI 0·05, 0·26; P = 0·004), which was stronger for maternal prenatal intake, specifically in non-breast-fed children (adjusted β = 0·28, 95 % CI 0·12, 0·44; P = 0·001). Among all grandparents, correlations were significant only for maternal grandmother–mother pairs (r (range) = 0·10–0·36). Significant positive ICC were observed for nutrient intakes of maternal grandmother–mother–child triads (ICC (range) = 0·12–0·27), not found in paternal lines.


These findings suggest that maternal-environment programming influences dietary intake.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Familial intergenerational and maternal aggregation patterns in nutrient intakes in the Lifeways Cross-Generation Cohort Study
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Familial intergenerational and maternal aggregation patterns in nutrient intakes in the Lifeways Cross-Generation Cohort Study
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Familial intergenerational and maternal aggregation patterns in nutrient intakes in the Lifeways Cross-Generation Cohort Study
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Email
Hide All
1.Wang, Y, Beydoun, MA, Li, Jet al. (2011) Do children and their parents eat a similar diet? Resemblance in child and parental dietary intake: systematic review and meta-analysis. J Epidemiol Community Health 65, 177189.
2.Reed, DR, Bachmanov, AA, Beauchamp, GKet al. (1997) Heritable variation in food preferences and their contribution to obesity. Behav Genet 27, 373387.
3.Faith, MS, Rha, SS, Neale, MCet al. (1999) Evidence for genetic influences on human energy intake: results from a twin study using measured observations. Behav Genet 29, 145154. Castro, JM (1993) Independence of genetic influences on body size, daily intake, and meal patterns of humans. Physiol Behav 54, 633639.
5.Faith, MS, Rhea, SA, Corley, RPet al. (2008) Genetic and shared environmental influences on children's 24-h food and beverage intake: sex differences at age 7 y. Am J Clin Nutr 87, 903911.
6.Wardle, J (1995) Parental influences on children's diets. Proc Nutr Soc 54, 747758.
7.Savage, JS, Fisher, JO & Birch, LL (2007) Parental influence on eating behavior: conception to adolescence. J Law Med Ethics 35, 2234.
8.Oliveria, SA, Ellison, RC, Moore, LLet al. (1992) Parent–child relationships in nutrient intake: the Framingham Children's Study. Am J Clin Nutr 56, 593598.
9.Fisher, JO, Mitchell, DC, Smiciklas-Wright, Het al. (2002) Parental influences on young girls’ fruit and vegetable, micronutrient, and fat intakes. J Am Diet Assoc 102, 5864.
10.Lee, Y & Birch, LL (2002) Diet quality, nutrient intake, weight status, and feeding environments of girls meeting or exceeding the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for total dietary fat. Minerva Pediatr 54, 179186.
11.Stafleu, A, Van Staveren, WA, de Graaf, Cet al. (1994) Family resemblance in energy, fat, and cholesterol intake: a study among three generations of women. Prev Med 23, 474480.
12.Brion, MJ, Ness, AR, Rogers, Iet al. (2010) Maternal macronutrient and energy intakes in pregnancy and offspring intake at 10 y: exploring parental comparisons and prenatal effects. Am J Clin Nutr 91, 748756.
13.O'Mahony, D, Fallon, UB, Hannon, Fet al. (2007) The Lifeways Cross-Generation Study: design, recruitment and data management considerations. Ir Med J 100, issue 8, suppl. 36.
14.National Nutrition Surveillance Centre (2003) Dietary Habits of the Irish Population: Results from SLÁN, Annual Report 2003. Dublin: National Nutritional Surveillance Centre, Department of Public Health Medicine and Epidemiology, University College Dublin and Health Promotion Unit, Department of Health and Children.
15.Harrington, J (1997) Validation of a food frequency questionnaire as a tool for assessing nutrient intake. MA Thesis, National University of Ireland, Galway.
16.Gregory, J, Collins, D, Davies, Pet al. (1995) National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Children Aged 1·5–4·5 Years. vol. 1: Report of the Diet and Nutrition Survey. London: HMSO.
17.Murrin, C (2011) Maternal factors during pregnancy contributing to early life risk of childhood obesity. PhD Thesis, University College Dublin.
18.Food Standards Agency (2002) McCance and Widdowson's The Composition of Foods, 6th summary edition. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry.
19.Faith, MS (2005) Development and modification of child food preferences and eating patterns: behavior genetics strategies. Int J Obes (Lond) 29, 549556.
20.Willett, WC, Howe, GR & Kushi, LH (1997) Adjustment for total energy intake in epidemiologic studies. Am J Clin Nutr 65, 4 Suppl., 1220S1228S.
21.Willett, W & Stampfer, M (1998) Implications of total energy intake for epidemiologic analysis. In Nutritional Epidemiology, 2nd ed., pp. 273301 [W Willett, editor]. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
22.Perusse, L, Tremblay, A, Leblanc, Cet al. (1988) Familial resemblance in energy intake: contribution of genetic and environmental factors. Am J Clin Nutr 47, 629635.
23.Park, HS, Yim, KS & Cho, SI (2004) Gender differences in familial aggregation of obesity-related phenotypes and dietary intake patterns in Korean families. Ann Epidemiol 14, 486491.
24.Borah-Giddens, JF & Falciglia, GA (1993) A meta-analysis of the relationship in food preferences between parents and children. J Nutr Educ 25, 102107.
25.Patterson, TL, Rupp, JW, Sallis, JFet al. (1988) Aggregation of dietary calories, fats, and sodium in Mexican-American and Anglo families. Am J Prev Med 4, 7582.
26.Beydoun, MA & Wang, Y (2009) Parent–child dietary intake resemblance in the United States: evidence from a large representative survey. Soc Sci Med 68, 21372144.
27.Davey Smith, G (2008) Assessing intrauterine influences on offspring health outcomes: can epidemiological studies yield robust findings? Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol 102, 245256.
28.Davey Smith, G, Leary, S, Ness, Aet al. (2009) Challenges and novel approaches in the epidemiological study of early life influences on later disease. Adv Exp Med Biol 646, 114.
29.Vucetic, Z, Kimmel, J, Totoki, Ket al. (2010) Maternal high-fat diet alters methylation and gene expression of dopamine and opioid-related genes. Endocrinology 151, 47564764.
30.Chang, G-Q, Gaysinskaya, V, Karatayev, Oet al. (2008) Maternal high-fat diet and fetal programming: increased proliferation of hypothalamic peptide-producing neurons that increase risk for overeating and obesity. J Neurosci 28, 1210712119.
31.Ong, ZY & Muhlhausler, BS (2011) Maternal ‘junk-food’ feeding of rat dams alters food choices and development of the mesolimbic reward pathway in the offspring. FASEB J 25, 21672179.
32.Bayol, SA, Farrington, SJ & Stickland, NC (2007) A maternal ‘junk food’ diet in pregnancy and lactation promotes an exacerbated taste for ‘junk food’ and a greater propensity for obesity in rat offspring. Br J Nutr 98, 843851.
33.Levin, BE (2008) Epigenetic influences on food intake and physical activity level: review of animal studies. Obesity (Silver Spring) 16, Suppl. 3, S51S54.
34.Mennella, JA, Jagnow, CP & Beauchamp, GK (2001) Prenatal and postnatal flavor learning by human infants. Pediatrics 107, E88.
35.Schaal, B, Marlier, L & Soussignan, R (2000) Human foetuses learn odours from their pregnant mother's diet. Chem Senses 25, 729737.
36.Forestell, CA & Mennella, JA (2007) Early determinants of fruit and vegetable acceptance. Pediatrics 120, 12471254.
37.Mennella, JA & Beauchamp, GK (2002) Flavor experiences during formula feeding are related to preferences during childhood. Early Hum Dev 68, 7182.
38.Mennella, JA, Kennedy, JM & Beauchamp, GK (2006) Vegetable acceptance by infants: effects of formula flavors. Early Hum Dev 82, 463468.
39.Harris, G (2008) Development of taste and food preferences in children. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 11, 315319.
40.Barker, DJP (2012) Sir Richard Doll Lecture. Developmental origins of chronic disease. Public Health 126, 185189.
41.Kuzawa, CW (2005) Fetal origins of developmental plasticity: are fetal cues reliable predictors of future nutritional environments? Am J Hum Biol 17, 521.
42.Kuzawa, CW (2007) Developmental origins of life history: growth, productivity, and reproduction. Am J Hum Biol 19, 654661.
43.Niedhammer, I, O'Mahony, D, Daly, Set al. (2009) Occupational predictors of pregnancy outcomes in Irish working women in the Lifeways cohort. BJOG 116, 943952.
44.Murrin, CM, Kelly, GE, Tremblay, REet al. (2012) Body mass index and height over three generations: evidence from the Lifeways cross-generational cohort study. BMC Public Health 12, 81.
45.Faith, MS, Keller, KL, Johnson, SLet al. (2004) Familial aggregation of energy intake in children. Am J Clin Nutr 79, 844850.
46.Fitzsimon, N, Fallon, U, O'Mahony, Det al. (2007) Mothers’ dietary patterns during pregnancy and risk of asthma symptoms in children at 3 years. Ir Med J 100, issue 8, suppl. 2732.
47.Silventoinen, K, Rokholm, B, Kaprio, Jet al. (2010) The genetic and environmental influences on childhood obesity: a systematic review of twin and adoption studies. Int J Obes (Lond) 34, 2940.
48.Eriksson, JG, Kajantie, E, Thornburg, KLet al. (2011) Mother's body size and placental size predict coronary heart disease in men. Eur Heart J 32, 22972303.
49.Davey Smith, G (2011) Epidemiology, epigenetics and the ‘Gloomy Prospect’: embracing randomness in population health research and practice. Int J Epidemiol 40, 537562.
50.Doyle, O, McNamara, KA, Cheevers, Cet al. (2010) Preparing for Life Early Childhood Intervention. Impact Evaluation Report 1: Recruitment and Baseline Characteristics. UCD Geary Institute Working Paper Series no. WP2010/50. Dublin: Geary Institute, University College Dublin; available at
51.Barker, DJP (2004) The developmental origins of adult disease. J Am Coll Nutr 23, 6 Suppl., 588S595S.
52.Bateson, P, Barker, D, Clutton-Brock, Tet al. (2004) Developmental plasticity and human health. Nature 430, 419421.
53.Barker, DJP (2007) Obesity and early life. Obes Rev 8, 4549.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
  • EISSN: 1475-2727
  • URL: /core/journals/public-health-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed