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Parental education and frequency of food consumption in European children: the IDEFICS study

  • Juan Miguel Fernández-Alvira (a1), Theodora Mouratidou (a1), Karin Bammann (a2), Antje Hebestreit (a2), Gianvincenzo Barba (a3), Sabina Sieri (a4), Lucia Reisch (a5), Gabriele Eiben (a6), Charalampos Hadjigeorgiou (a7), Eva Kovacs (a8), Inge Huybrechts (a9) and Luis A Moreno (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 12 June 2012

To assess the relationship between parental education level and the consumption frequency of obesity-related foods in European children.


The analysis was based on data from the cross-sectional baseline survey of a prospective cohort study. The effects of parental education on food consumption were explored using analysis of covariance and logistic regression.


Primary schools and pre-schools of selected regions in Italy, Estonia, Cyprus, Belgium, Sweden, Hungary, Germany and Spain.


Participants (n 14 426) of the IDEFICS baseline cohort study aged 2 to 9 years.


Parental education level affected the intake of obesity-related foods in children. Children in the low and medium parental education level groups had lower odds of more frequently eating low-sugar and low-fat foods (vegetables, fruits, pasta/noodles/rice and wholemeal bread) and higher odds of more frequently eating high-sugar and high-fat foods (fried potatoes, fruits with sugar and nuts, snacks/desserts and sugared beverages; P < 0·001). The largest odds ratio differences were found in the low category (reference category: high) for vegetables (OR = 0·56; 95 % CI 0·47, 0·65), fruits (OR = 0·56; 95 % CI 0·48, 0·65), fruits with sugar and nuts (OR = 2·23; 95 % CI 1·92, 2·59) and sugared beverages (OR = 2·01; 95 % CI 1·77, 2·37).


Low parental education level was associated with intakes of sugar-rich and fatty foods among children, while high parental education level was associated with intakes of low-sugar and low-fat foods. These findings should be taken into account in public health interventions, with more targeted policies aiming at an improvement of children's diet.

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