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1.  Dietary animal and plant protein intakes and their associations with obesity and cardio-metabolic indicators in European adolescents: the HELENA cross-sectional study 
Nutrition Journal  2015;14:10.
Previous studies suggest that dietary protein might play a beneficial role in combating obesity and its related chronic diseases. Total, animal and plant protein intakes and their associations with anthropometry and serum biomarkers in European adolescents using one standardised methodology across European countries are not well documented.
To evaluate total, animal and plant protein intakes in European adolescents stratified by gender and age, and to investigate their associations with cardio-metabolic indicators (anthropometry and biomarkers).
The current analysis included 1804 randomly selected adolescents participating in the HELENA study (conducted in 2006–2007) aged 12.5-17.5 y (47% males) who completed two non-consecutive computerised 24-h dietary recalls. Associations between animal and plant protein intakes, and anthropometry and serum biomarkers were examined with General linear Model multivariate analysis.
Average total protein intake exceeded the recommendations of World Health Organization and European Food Safety Authority. Mean total protein intake was 96 g/d (59% derived from animal protein). Total, animal and plant protein intakes (g/d) were significantly lower in females than in males and total and plant protein intakes were lower in younger participants (12.5-14.9 y). Protein intake was significantly lower in underweight subjects and higher in obese ones; the direction of the relationship was reversed after adjustments for body weight (g/(kg.d)). The inverse association of plant protein intakes was stronger with BMI z-score and body fat percentage (BF%) compared to animal protein intakes. Additionally, BMI and BF% were positively associated with energy percentage of animal protein.
This sample of European adolescents appeared to have adequate total protein intake. Our findings suggest that plant protein intakes may play a role in preventing obesity among European adolescents. Further longitudinal studies are needed to investigate the potential beneficial effects observed in this study in the prevention of obesity and related chronic diseases.
PMCID: PMC4334414  PMID: 25609179
Protein intake; Adolescence; Body composition; Biomarkers; HELENA study
2.  Cross-sectional study on the relationship between the Mediterranean Diet Score and blood lipids 
Nutrition Journal  2014;13(1):88.
Blood lipids are cardiovascular health indicators. High LDL cholesterol values and/or high total cholesterol (TC)/HDL cholesterol ratios are positively related with cardiovascular mortality. Evidence suggests that a Mediterranean diet can reduce the incidence of cardiovascular diseases. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet is often measured by the Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS). However, the association between the Mediterranean diet and blood lipid profiles seems still inconclusive. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between the MDS, its different components and blood lipid profiles.
A sample of 506 women and 707 men (aged 18–75 years) was recruited. Three-day diet records were used to calculate the MDS. Blood samples were analyzed for serum TC, LDL and HDL cholesterol. ANOVA was used to analyze blood lipids across the MDS tertiles. A multivariate linear regression analysis was performed to investigate the associations between the MDS, its components and blood lipids, adjusted for several confounders. All analyses were stratified by gender.
Few gender-specific associations were found between the MDS, its components and blood lipids. Only in men, the total MDS was negatively related with LDL cholesterol and the ratio TC/HDL cholesterol while positively with HDL cholesterol. In women, respectively two (MUFA/SFA and cereals) and in men three (fruits & nuts, meat and alcohol) of the nine MDS components were related with blood lipids.
Analyses investigating the relationship between the MDS, its components and blood lipid profiles indicate only limited influence of the Mediterranean diet on blood lipids. More associations were detected in men compared to women.
PMCID: PMC4164752  PMID: 25189183
Mediterranean diet score; Blood cholesterol; Cardiovascular disease; Dietary pattern analysis
4.  Comparison of Nutritional Quality of the Vegan, Vegetarian, Semi-Vegetarian, Pesco-Vegetarian and Omnivorous Diet 
Nutrients  2014;6(3):1318-1332.
The number of studies comparing nutritional quality of restrictive diets is limited. Data on vegan subjects are especially lacking. It was the aim of the present study to compare the quality and the contributing components of vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian and omnivorous diets. Dietary intake was estimated using a cross-sectional online survey with a 52-items food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). Healthy Eating Index 2010 (HEI-2010) and the Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS) were calculated as indicators for diet quality. After analysis of the diet questionnaire and the FFQ, 1475 participants were classified as vegans (n = 104), vegetarians (n = 573), semi-vegetarians (n = 498), pesco-vegetarians (n = 145), and omnivores (n = 155). The most restricted diet, i.e., the vegan diet, had the lowest total energy intake, better fat intake profile, lowest protein and highest dietary fiber intake in contrast to the omnivorous diet. Calcium intake was lowest for the vegans and below national dietary recommendations. The vegan diet received the highest index values and the omnivorous the lowest for HEI-2010 and MDS. Typical aspects of a vegan diet (high fruit and vegetable intake, low sodium intake, and low intake of saturated fat) contributed substantially to the total score, independent of the indexing system used. The score for the more prudent diets (vegetarians, semi-vegetarians and pesco-vegetarians) differed as a function of the used indexing system but they were mostly better in terms of nutrient quality than the omnivores.
PMCID: PMC3967195  PMID: 24667136
vegan; vegetarian; omnivore; diet quality; dietary pattern analysis
5.  Validity of instruction leaflets for parents to measure their child's weight and height at home: results obtained from a randomised controlled trial 
BMJ Open  2014;4(2):e003768.
To compare the validity of parent-reported height, weight and body mass index (BMI) values of children (aged 4–10 years), when measured at home by means of newly developed instruction leaflets in comparison with simple estimated parental reports.
Randomised controlled trial with control and intervention group using simple randomisation.
Belgian children and their parents recruited via schools (multistage cluster sampling design).
164 Belgian children (53% male; participation rate 62%).
Parents completed a questionnaire including questions about the height and weight of their child. Parents in the intervention group received instruction leaflets to measure their child's weight and height. Classes were randomly allocated to the intervention and control groups. Nurses measured height and weight following standardised procedures up to 2 weeks after parental reports.
Outcome measures
Weight, height and BMI category of the child were derived from the index measurements and the parental reports.
Mean parent-reported weight was slightly more underestimated in the intervention group than in the control group relative to the index weights. However, for all three parameters (weight, height and BMI), correlations between parental reports and nurse measurements were higher in the intervention group. Sensitivity for underweight and overweight/obesity was respectively, 75% and 60% in the intervention group, and 67% and 43% in the control group. Weighed κ for classifying children in the correct BMI category was 0.30 in the control group and was 0.51 in the intervention group.
Although mean parent-reported weight was slightly more underestimated in the intervention than in the control group, correlations were higher and there was considerably less misclassification into valid BMI categories for the intervention group. This pattern suggests that most of the parental deviations from the index measurements were probably due to random errors of measurement and that diagnostic measures could improve by encouraging parents to measure their children's weight and height at home by means of instruction leaflets.
PMCID: PMC3918984  PMID: 24508849
Nutrition & Dietetics; Paediatrics; Preventive Medicine; Public Health; Statistics & Research Methods
6.  Dietary pattern analysis: a comparison between matched vegetarian and omnivorous subjects 
Nutrition Journal  2013;12:82.
Dietary pattern analysis, based on the concept that foods eaten together are as important as a reductive methodology characterized by a single food or nutrient analysis, has emerged as an alternative approach to study the relation between nutrition and disease. The aim of the present study was to compare nutritional intake and the results of dietary pattern analysis in properly matched vegetarian and omnivorous subjects.
Vegetarians (n = 69) were recruited via purposeful sampling and matched non-vegetarians (n = 69) with same age, gender, health and lifestyle characteristics were searched for via convenience sampling. Two dietary pattern analysis methods, the Healthy Eating Index-2010 (HEI-2010) and the Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS) were calculated and analysed in function of the nutrient intake.
Mean total energy intake was comparable between vegetarians and omnivorous subjects (p > 0.05). Macronutrient analysis revealed significant differences between the mean values for vegetarians and omnivorous subjects (absolute and relative protein and total fat intake were significantly lower in vegetarians, while carbohydrate and fibre intakes were significantly higher in vegetarians than in omnivorous subjects). The HEI and MDS were significantly higher for the vegetarians (HEI = 53.8.1 ± 11.2; MDS = 4.3 ± 1.3) compared to the omnivorous subjects (HEI = 46.4 ± 15.3; MDS = 3.8 ± 1.4).
Our results indicate a more nutrient dense pattern, closer to the current dietary recommendations for the vegetarians compared to the omnivorous subjects. Both indexing systems were able to discriminate between the vegetarians and the non-vegetarians with higher scores for the vegetarian subjects.
PMCID: PMC3700875  PMID: 23758767
7.  Clustering of unhealthy food around German schools and its influence on dietary behavior in school children: a pilot study 
The availability of fast foods, sweets, and other snacks in the living environment of children is assumed to contribute to an obesogenic environment. In particular, it is hypothesized that food retailers are spatially clustered around schools and that a higher availability of unhealthy foods leads to its higher consumption in children. Studies that support these relationships have primarily been conducted in the U.S. or Australia, but rarely in European communities. We used data of FFQ and 24-HDR of the IDEFICS study, as well as geographical data from one German study region to investigate (1) the clustering of food outlets around schools and (2) the influence of junk food availability on the food intake in school children.
We geocoded food outlets offering junk food (e.g. supermarkets, kiosks, and fast food restaurants). Spatial cluster analysis of food retailers around child-serving institutions was conducted using an inhomogeneous K-function to calculate global 95% confidence envelopes. Furthermore, a food retail index was implemented considering the kernel density of junk food supplies per service area, adjusted for residential density. We linked the food retail index to FFQ and 24-HDR data of 384 6- to 9-year-old school children in the study region and investigated the impact of the index on food intake, using multilevel regression models adjusted for sex, age, BMI, parent’s education and income, as well as adjusting for over- and underreporting of food intake.
Comparing the 95% confidence envelopes to the observed K-function, we showed that food stores and fast food restaurants do not significantly cluster around schools. Apart from this result, the food retail index showed no effect on BMI (β=0.01,p=0.11) or food intake variables assessed by FFQ and 24-HDR.
In the built environment of the German study region, clustering of food retailers does not depend on the location of schools. Additionally, the results suggest that the consumption of junk food in young children is not influenced by spatial availability of unhealthy food. However, investigations should be replicated in other European communities to increase environmental variability.
PMCID: PMC3686694  PMID: 23714200
8.  Infrequent Breakfast Consumption Is Associated with Higher Body Adiposity and Abdominal Obesity in Malaysian School-Aged Adolescents 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59297.
Unhealthy dietary pattern increases the risk of obesity and metabolic disorders in growing children and adolescents. However, the way the habitual pattern of breakfast consumption influences body composition and risk of obesity in adolescents is not well defined. Thus, the aim of the present study was to assess any associations between breakfast consumption practices and body composition profiles in 236 apparently healthy adolescents aged 12 to 19 years. A self-administered questionnaire on dietary behaviour and lifestyle practices and a dietary food frequency questionnaire were used. Body composition and adiposity indices were determined using standard anthropometric measurement protocols and dual energy χ-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Mean age of the participants was 15.3±1.9 years. The majority of participants (71.2%) fell in the normal body mass index (BMI) ranges. Breakfast consumption patterns showed that only half of the participants (50%) were consuming breakfast daily. Gender-specific multivariate analyses (ANCOVA) showed that in both boys and girls, those eating breakfast at least 5 times a week had significantly lower body weight, body mass index (BMI), BMI z-scores, waist circumference, body fat mass and percent body fat (%BF) compared to infrequent breakfast eaters, after adjustment for age, household income, pubertal status, eating-out and snacking practices, daily energy intakes, and daily physical activity levels. The present findings indicate that infrequent breakfast consumption is associated with higher body adiposity and abdominal obesity. Therefore, daily breakfast consumption with healthy food choices should be encouraged in growing children and adolescents to prevent adiposity during these critical years of growth.
PMCID: PMC3592841  PMID: 23520556
9.  Prevalence of negative life events and chronic adversities in European pre- and primary-school children: results from the IDEFICS study 
Archives of Public Health  2012;70(1):26.
Children are not always recognized as being susceptible to stress, although childhood stressors may originate from multiple events in their everyday surroundings with negative effects on children’s health.
As there is a lack of large-scale, European prevalence data on childhood adversities, this study presents the prevalence of (1) negative life events and (2) familial and social adversities in 4637 European pre- and primary-school children (4–11 years old), using a parentally-reported questionnaire embedded in the IDEFICS project (‘Identification and prevention of Dietary- and lifestyle-induced health EFfects In Children and infantS’).
The following findings were observed: (1) Certain adversities occur only rarely, while others are very regular (i.e. parental divorce); (2) A large percentage of children is shielded from stressors, while a small group of children is exposed to multiple, accumulating adversities; (3) The prevalence of childhood adversity is influenced by geographical location (e.g. north versus south), age group and sex; (4) Childhood adversities are associated and co-occur, resulting in potential cumulative childhood stress.
This study demonstrated the importance of not only studying traumatic events but also of focusing on the early familial and social environment in childhood stress research and indicated the importance of recording or monitoring childhood adversities.
PMCID: PMC3552702  PMID: 23173879
Child; Life events; Adversity; Prevalence; Stress; Epidemiology
10.  Prospective Analysis of the Association of a Common Variant of FTO (rs9939609) with Adiposity in Children: Results of the IDEFICS Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48876.
We investigated cross-sectionally and longitudinally the relationship between FTO rs9939609 and obesity-related characteristics in the European children of the IDEFICS project and the interaction of this variant with a lifestyle intervention.
Population and Methods
A cohort of 16224 children (2–9 years) was recruited into a population-based survey (T0) from eight European countries. A second survey (T1) reassessed the children two years later. A random sample of 4405 children was extracted for genetic studies. 3168 children were re-examined two years later. Half of them underwent a lifestyle intervention program. The FTO rs9939609 was genotyped. Weight, height, waist circumference, triceps and subscapular skinfolds were measured at T0 and T1.
At T0, the risk A allele of rs9939609 was significantly associated with higher values of body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and skinfolds (age, sex, and country-adjusted p-values: all p<0.001) and with a statistically significant increased risk of overweight/obesity.
Over the two year follow-up, no interaction between genotype and intervention was observed. The A allele was associated to a significantly higher increase in all the anthropometric variables examined at T0 independently from the study group (intervention versus control) (p-values: all p<0.002, adjusted for age, sex, country, intervention/control study group, T0 values, and individual time interval between T0 and T1). Over the two-year follow–up, 210 new cases of overweight/obesity occurred. A statistically significant higher incidence of overweight/obesity was associated to the A allele [ORA = 1.95, 95% CI = (1.29; 2.97)].
We confirmed the association between the FTO rs9939609 and body mass and overweight/obesity risk in European children. The main finding of the study is that the A allele carriers present higher increase of body mass and central adiposity over time and higher risk of developing overweight/obesity during growth, independently from intervention measures.
PMCID: PMC3498350  PMID: 23155422
11.  Children’s Body composition and Stress – the ChiBS study: aims, design, methods, population and participation characteristics 
Archives of Public Health  2012;70(1):17.
The last decades, the prevalence of childhood obesity has increased. Apart from other lifestyle factors, the effect of chronic psychosocial stress on the development of obesity has been recognized. However, more research is needed into the influence of chronic stress on appetite regulation, energy balance and body composition, as well as on the interaction with physical activity/sedentary behavior, diet and sleep in children. In this regard, the ChiBS study (Children’s Body composition and Stress) was designed at the Ghent University. Within this paper, we describe the aims, design, methods, participation and population characteristics of the ChiBS study.
The influence of chronic stress on changes in body composition is investigated over a two-year follow-up period (February-June 2010, 2011 and 2012) in primary-school children between 6 and 12 years old in the city Aalter (Flanders, Belgium).
Stress is measured by child- and parent-reported stress-questionnaires, as well as by objective stress biomarkers (serum, salivary and hair cortisol) and heart rate variability. Body composition is evaluated using basic anthropometric measurements and air displacement plethysmography. Additional information on socio-economic status, medical history, physical activity, dietary intake and sleep are obtained by questionnaires, and physical activity by accelerometers.
The participation percentage was 68.7% (N = 523/761), with 71.3% of the children willing to participate in the first follow-up survey. Drop-out proportions were highest for serum sampling (12.1%), salivary sampling (8.3%) and heart rate variability measurements (7.4%).
The ChiBS project is unique in its setting: its standardized and longitudinal approach provides valuable data and new insights into the relationship between stress and changes in body composition in a large cohort of young children. In addition, this study allows an in-depth investigation of the validity of the different methods that were used to assess stress levels in children.
PMCID: PMC3524083  PMID: 22958377
Stress; Child; Body composition; Obesity; Cortisol; Heart rate variability; Questionnaire; Food habits; Physical activity; Sleep
12.  Main characteristics and participation rate of European adolescents included in the HELENA study 
Archives of Public Health  2012;70(1):14.
Participation rate and response rate are key issues in a cross sectional large-scale epidemiological study. The objective of this paper is to describe the study population and to evaluate participation and response rate as well as the key nutritional status variables in male and female adolescents involved in the HELENA study.
A multi-stage random cluster sampling with a target sample of 3000 adolescents aged [12.5 to 17.5] years, stratified for geographical location and age, was carried out. Information for participants and non-participants (NP) was compared, and participation and response rates to specific questionnaires were discussed.
3,865 adolescents aged [12.5 to 17.5] years (1,845 females) participated in the HELENA study, of whom 1,076 (568 females) participated in the blood sampling. 3,528 (1,845 females) adolescents were finally kept for statistical analysis. Participation rates for the schools and classes differed importantly between countries. The participation rate of pupils within the participating classes also differed importantly between countries. Sex ratio, mean age and BMI were similar between NP and participating adolescents within each centre, and in the overall sample. For all the questionnaires included in the database, the response rate of questionnaires was high (more than 80% of questions were completed).
From this study it could be concluded that participation rate differed importantly between countries, though no bias could be identified when comparing the key study variables between participants and non-participants. Response rate for questionnaires was very high. Future studies investigating lifestyle and health in adolescents can optimize their methods when considering the opportunities and barriers observed in the HELENA study.
PMCID: PMC3490738  PMID: 22958310
13.  Bias in protein and potassium intake collected with 24-h recalls (EPIC-Soft) is rather comparable across European populations 
European Journal of Nutrition  2011;51(8):997-1010.
We investigated whether group-level bias of a 24-h recall estimate of protein and potassium intake, as compared to biomarkers, varied across European centers and whether this was influenced by characteristics of individuals or centers.
The combined data from EFCOVAL and EPIC studies included 14 centers from 9 countries (n = 1,841). Dietary data were collected using a computerized 24-h recall (EPIC-Soft). Nitrogen and potassium in 24-h urine collections were used as reference method. Multilevel linear regression analysis was performed, including individual-level (e.g., BMI) and center-level (e.g., food pattern index) variables.
For protein intake, no between-center variation in bias was observed in men while it was 5.7% in women. For potassium intake, the between-center variation in bias was 8.9% in men and null in women. BMI was an important factor influencing the biases across centers (p < 0.01 in all analyses). In addition, mode of administration (p = 0.06 in women) and day of the week (p = 0.03 in men and p = 0.06 in women) may have influenced the bias in protein intake across centers. After inclusion of these individual variables, between-center variation in bias in protein intake disappeared for women, whereas for potassium, it increased slightly in men (to 9.5%). Center-level variables did not influence the results.
The results suggest that group-level bias in protein and potassium (for women) collected with 24-h recalls does not vary across centers and to a certain extent varies for potassium in men. BMI and study design aspects, rather than center-level characteristics, affected the biases across centers.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00394-011-0279-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3496541  PMID: 22143464
Diet; Protein; Potassium; Biomarker; Validity; 24-h dietary recall; Multilevel
14.  Repeated 24-hour recalls versus dietary records for estimating nutrient intakes in a national food consumption survey  
Food & Nutrition Research  2011;55:10.3402/fnr.v55i0.7307.
The methodology used in the first Belgian food consumption survey followed to a large extent the instructions of the European Food Consumption (EFCOSUM) reports, where repeated 24-hour recalls (24HR) using EPIC-SOFT were recommended.
To evaluate the relative validity of two non-consecutive 24HR using EPIC-SOFT by comparison with 5-day estimated dietary records (EDR). To assess misreporting in energy for both methods by comparing energy intake with energy expenditure from accelerometery in a subsample.
A total of 175 subjects (aged 15 and over) were recruited to participate in the study. Repeated 24HR were performed with an interval of 2–8 weeks. After completion of the second interview, subjects were instructed to keep an EDR. Dietary intakes were adjusted for within-person variability to reflect usual intakes. A Student's t-test was calculated to assess differences between both methods. Spearman and Kappa correlation coefficients were used to investigate agreement.
In total, 127 subjects completed the required repeated 24HR, as well as the five record days. From 76 participants, accelerometer data were available. In both methods, about 35% of participants had ratios of Energy Intake/Total Energy Expenditure (EI/TEE) above or below 95% confidence intervals for EI/TEE, suggesting misreporting of energy. Significant differences between the two dietary intake methods were found for total energy, total fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, alcohol, vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin and iron. In general, intakes from 24HR were higher compared to EDR. Correlation coefficients for all nutrients ranged from 0.16 for thiamine to 0.70 for water.
The results from this study show that in the context of nutritional surveillance, duplicate 24HR can be used to asses intakes of protein, carbohydrates, starch, sugar, water, potassium and calcium.
PMCID: PMC3215303  PMID: 22084625
estimated dietary record; dietary assessment; accelerometry; relative validity
15.  Dietary sources of energy and macronutrient intakes among Flemish preschoolers 
This study aims to identify major food sources of energy and macronutrients among Flemish preschoolers as a basis for evaluating dietary guidelines. Three-day estimated diet records were collected from a representative sample of 696 Flemish preschoolers (2.5-6.5 years old; participation response rate: 50%). For 11 dietary constituents, the contribution of 57 food groups was computed by summing the amount provided by the food group for all individuals divided by the total intake of the respective nutrient for all individuals. Bread (12%), sweet snacks (12%), milk (6%), flavoured milk drinks (9%), and meat products (6%) were the top five energy contributors. Sweet snacks were among the top contributors to energy, total fat, all fatty acids, cholesterol, and complex and simple carbohydrates. Fruit juices and flavoured milk drinks are the main contributors to simple carbohydrates (respectively 14% and 18%). All principal food groups like water, bread and cereals, vegetables, fruit, milk and spreadable fats were under-consumed by more than 30% of the population, while the food groups that were over-consumed consisted only of low nutritious and high energy dense foods (sweet snacks, sugared drinks, fried potatoes, sauces and sweet spreads). From the major food sources and gaps in nutrient and food intakes, some recommendations to pursue the nutritional goals could be drawn: the intake of sweet snacks and sugar-rich drinks (incl. fruit juices) should be discouraged, while consumption of fruits, vegetables, water, bread and margarine on bread should be encouraged.
PMCID: PMC3436670  PMID: 22958525
16.  Dietary exposure assessments for children in europe (the EXPOCHI project): rationale, methods and design 
The number of dietary exposure assessment studies focussing on children is very limited. Children are however a vulnerable group due to their higher food consumption level per kg body weight. Therefore, the EXPOCHI project aims [1] to create a relational network of individual food consumption databases in children, covering different geographical areas within Europe, and [2] to use these data to assess the usual intake of lead, chromium, selenium and food colours.
EXPOCHI includes 14 food consumption databases focussed on children (1-14 y old). The data are considered representative at national/regional level: 14 regions covering 13 countries. Since the aim of the study is to perform long-term exposure assessments, only data derived from 24 hr dietary recalls and dietary records recorded on at least two non-consecutive days per individual were included in the dietary exposure assessments. To link consumption data and concentration data of lead, chromium and selenium in a standardised way, categorisation of the food consumption data was based on the food categorisation system described within the SCOOP Task report 3.2.11. For food colours, the food categorisation system specified in the Council Directive 94/36/EC was used.
The EXPOCHI project includes a pan-European long-term exposure assessment of lead, chromium, selenium and food colours among children living in 13 different EU countries. However, the different study methods and designs used to collect the data in the different countries necessitate an in-depth description of these different methods and a discussion about the resulting limitations.
PMCID: PMC3436650  PMID: 22958503
Food; dietary exposure assessment; children; Europe; design; concentration data; health risk; consumption data; lead; chromium; selenium; food colours
17.  Dietary sources of animal and plant protein intake among Flemish preschool children and the association with socio-economic and lifestyle-related factors 
Nutrition Journal  2011;10:97.
The aims of this study were to assess the intake of animal, plant and food group-specific protein, and to investigate their associations with socio-economic and lifestyle-related factors in Flemish preschoolers.
Three-day estimated dietary records were collected from 661 preschoolers aged 2.5-6.5 y (338 boys and 323 girls). Multiple linear regression analysis was used to investigate the association between animal, plant, and food group-specific protein intake and socio-economic and lifestyle factors.
Animal proteins (mean 38 g/d) were the main source of total protein (mean 56 g/d), while mean plant protein intake amounted to 18 g/d. The group of meat, poultry, fish and eggs was the main contributor (51%) to animal protein intake, followed by milk and milk products (35%). Bread and cereals (41%) contributed most to the plant protein intake, followed by low-nutritious, energy-dense foods (21%). With higher educated fathers and mothers as reference, respectively, preschoolers with lower secondary and secondary paternal education had lower animal, dairy-, and meat-derived protein intakes, and those with lower secondary and secondary maternal education consumed less plant, and bread and cereal-derived proteins. Compared to children with high physical activity levels, preschoolers with low and moderate physical activity had lower animal and plant protein intakes. Significantly higher potatoes and grains-, and fish- derived proteins were reported for children of smoking mothers and fathers, respectively, compared to those of non-smoking mothers and fathers.
The total protein intake of Flemish preschoolers was sufficient according to the recommendations of the Belgian Superior Health Council. Parental level of education and smoking status might play a role in the sources of children's dietary proteins.
PMCID: PMC3191475  PMID: 21943312
plant protein; animal protein; preschool children; socio-economic status; lifestyle-related factors; Flanders
18.  Validity of parent-reported weight and height of preschool children measured at home or estimated without home measurement: a validation study 
BMC Pediatrics  2011;11:63.
Parental reports are often used in large-scale surveys to assess children's body mass index (BMI). Therefore, it is important to know to what extent these parental reports are valid and whether it makes a difference if the parents measured their children's weight and height at home or whether they simply estimated these values. The aim of this study is to compare the validity of parent-reported height, weight and BMI values of preschool children (3-7 y-old), when measured at home or estimated by parents without actual measurement.
The subjects were 297 Belgian preschool children (52.9% male). Participation rate was 73%. A questionnaire including questions about height and weight of the children was completed by the parents. Nurses measured height and weight following standardised procedures. International age- and sex-specific BMI cut-off values were employed to determine categories of weight status and obesity.
On the group level, no important differences in accuracy of reported height, weight and BMI were identified between parent-measured or estimated values. However, for all 3 parameters, the correlations between parental reports and nurse measurements were higher in the group of children whose body dimensions were measured by the parents. Sensitivity for underweight and overweight/obesity were respectively 73% and 47% when parents measured their child's height and weight, and 55% and 47% when parents estimated values without measurement. Specificity for underweight and overweight/obesity were respectively 82% and 97% when parents measured the children, and 75% and 93% with parent estimations.
Diagnostic measures were more accurate when parents measured their child's weight and height at home than when those dimensions were based on parental judgements. When parent-reported data on an individual level is used, the accuracy could be improved by encouraging the parents to measure weight and height of their children at home.
PMCID: PMC3149571  PMID: 21736757
BMI; weight; height; validity; children; parent reports
19.  Clustering patterns of physical activity, sedentary and dietary behavior among European adolescents: The HELENA study 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:328.
Evidence suggests possible synergetic effects of multiple lifestyle behaviors on health risks like obesity and other health outcomes. A better insight in the clustering of those behaviors, could help to identify groups who are at risk in developing chronic diseases. This study examines the prevalence and clustering of physical activity, sedentary and dietary patterns among European adolescents and investigates if the identified clusters could be characterized by socio-demographic factors.
The study comprised a total of 2084 adolescents (45.6% male), from eight European cities participating in the HELENA (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) study. Physical activity and sedentary behavior were measured using self-reported questionnaires and diet quality was assessed based on dietary recall. Based on the results of those three indices, cluster analyses were performed. To identify gender differences and associations with socio-demographic variables, chi-square tests were executed.
Five stable and meaningful clusters were found. Only 18% of the adolescents showed healthy and 21% unhealthy scores on all three included indices. Males were highly presented in the cluster with high levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and low quality diets. The clusters with low levels of MVPA and high quality diets comprised more female adolescents. Adolescents with low educated parents had diets of lower quality and spent more time in sedentary activities. In addition, the clusters with high levels of MVPA comprised more adolescents of the younger age category.
In order to develop effective primary prevention strategies, it would be important to consider multiple health indices when identifying high risk groups.
PMCID: PMC3112135  PMID: 21586158
20.  Relationship between self-reported dietary intake and physical activity levels among adolescents: The HELENA study 
Evidence suggests possible synergetic effects of multiple lifestyle behaviors on health risks like obesity and other health outcomes. Therefore it is important to investigate associations between dietary and physical activity behavior, the two most important lifestyle behaviors influencing our energy balance and body composition. The objective of the present study is to describe the relationship between energy, nutrient and food intake and the physical activity level among a large group of European adolescents.
The study comprised a total of 2176 adolescents (46.2% male) from ten European cities participating in the HELENA (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) study. Dietary intake and physical activity were assessed using validated 24-h dietary recalls and self-reported questionnaires respectively. Analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) were used to compare the energy and nutrient intake and the food consumption between groups of adolescents with different physical activity levels (1st to 3rd tertile).
In both sexes no differences were found in energy intake between the levels of physical activity. The most active males showed a higher intake of polysaccharides, protein, water and vitamin C and a lower intake of saccharides compared to less active males. Females with the highest physical activity level consumed more polysaccharides compared to their least active peers. Male and female adolescents with the highest physical activity levels, consumed more fruit and milk products and less cheese compared to the least active adolescents. The most active males showed higher intakes of vegetables and meat, fish, eggs, meat substitutes and vegetarian products compared to the least active ones. The least active males reported the highest consumption of grain products and potatoes. Within the female group, significantly lower intakes of bread and cereal products and spreads were found for those reporting to spend most time in moderate to vigorous physical activity. The consumption of foods from the remaining food groups, did not differ between the physical activity levels in both sexes.
It can be concluded that dietary habits diverge between adolescents with different self-reported physical activity levels. For some food groups a difference in intake could be found, which were reflected in differences in some nutrient intakes. It can also be concluded that physically active adolescents are not always inclined to eat healthier diets than their less active peers.
PMCID: PMC3045277  PMID: 21294914
21.  Dietary Sources of Fiber Intake and Its Association with Socio-Economic Factors among Flemish Preschool Children 
The objectives were to assess total dietary fiber intake, identify the major sources of dietary fiber, and examine its association with socio-economic factors among Flemish preschoolers. Three-day estimated dietary records were collected from a representative sample of preschoolers 2.5–6.5 years old (n = 661; 338 boys, 323 girls). The mean dietary fiber intake (13.4 g/d) was lower than the intake level recommended by the Belgian Superior Health Council (70% boys and 81% girls below the guidelines). The most important contributor was the group of bread and cereals (29.5%), followed by fruits (17.8%), potatoes and grains (16.0%), energy-dense, low-nutritious foods (12.4%), and vegetables (11.8%). Multiple linear regression analyses showed that total fiber intake was associated with maternal education and parents’ employment. Overall, fiber intakes from high-nutritious foods (vegetables and fruits) were higher in preschoolers of higher educated mothers and those with one or both parents being employed. In conclusion, the majority of the preschoolers had dietary fiber intakes below the recommended level. Hence, dietary fiber should be promoted among parents of preschoolers and low socio-economic status families should be addressed in particular.
PMCID: PMC3111636  PMID: 21673925
dietary fiber intake; preschool children; socio-economic status; Belgium
22.  Validity of Self-Reported Weight and Height of Adolescents, Its Impact on Classification into BMI-Categories and the Association with Weighing Behaviour 
This paper investigated the validity of self-reported height and weight of adolescents for the diagnosis of underweight, overweight and obesity and the influence of weighing behaviour on the accuracy. A total of 982 adolescents reported their height, weight, weighing behaviour and eating patterns in a questionnaire. Afterwards, their height and weight were measured and their Body Mass Index (BMI)-categories were determined using age- and gender-specific BMI cut-off points. Both girls and boys underreported their weight, whilst height was overestimated by girls and underestimated by boys. Cohen’s d indicated that these misreportings were in fact trivial. The prevalence of underweight was overestimated when using the self-reported BMI for classification, whilst the prevalence of overweight and obesity was underestimated. Gender and educational level influenced the accuracy of the adolescents’ self-reported BMI. Weighing behaviour only positively influenced the accuracy of the self-reported weight and not height or BMI. In summary, adolescents’ self-reported weight and height cannot replace measured values to determine their BMI-category, and thus the latter are highly recommended when investigating underweight, overweight and obesity in adolescents.
PMCID: PMC2790101  PMID: 20054463
height; weight; body mass index; validity; adolescents; weighing behaviour
23.  Fluoride Intake through Consumption of Tap Water and Bottled Water in Belgium 
There is a tendency to align higher levels of fluoride in natural mineral water with the existing higher levels in tap water. Treatment of natural mineral waters could harm the preservation of their natural character. In this study fluoride intake through bottled and tap water consumption in the Belgian adult population was assessed, taking into account regional differences. A deterministic approach was used whereby consumption quantities of tap water and different brands of bottled water were linked with their respective fluoride concentrations. Data from the national food consumption survey (2004) were used and the Nusser methodology was applied to obtain usual intake estimates.
Mean intake of fluoride through total water consumption in Flanders was 1.4±0.7 mg/day (97.5th percentile: 3.1 mg/day), while in the Walloon region it was on average 0.9±0.6 mg/day (97.5th percentile: 2.4 mg/day). The probability of exceeding the UL of 7 mg per day via a normal diet was estimated to be low. Consequently, there is no need to revise the existing norms, but higher fluoride concentrations should be more clearly indicated on the labels. Reliable data about total dietary fluoride intake in children, including intake of fluoride via tooth paste and food supplements, are needed.
PMCID: PMC2697936  PMID: 19543414
fluoride; exposure assessment; food consumption survey; Belgium
25.  Relative Validity and Reproducibility of a Food-Frequency Questionnaire for Estimating Food Intakes among Flemish Preschoolers 
The aims of this study were to assess the relative validity and reproducibility of a semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ) applied in a large region-wide survey among 2.5–6.5 year-old children for estimating food group intakes. Parents/guardians were used as a proxy. Estimated diet records (3d) were used as reference method and reproducibility was measured by repeated FFQ administrations five weeks apart. In total 650 children were included in the validity analyses and 124 in the reproducibility analyses. Comparing median FFQ1 to FFQ2 intakes, almost all evaluated food groups showed median differences within a range of ± 15%. However, for median vegetables, fruit and cheese intake, FFQ1 was > 20% higher than FFQ2. For most foods a moderate correlation (0.5–0.7) was obtained between FFQ1 and FFQ2. For cheese, sugared drinks and fruit juice intakes correlations were even > 0.7. For median differences between the 3d EDR and the FFQ, six food groups (potatoes & grains; vegetables Fruit; cheese; meat, game, poultry and fish; and sugared drinks) gave a difference > 20%. The largest corrected correlations (>0.6) were found for the intake of potatoes and grains, fruit, milk products, cheese, sugared drinks, and fruit juice, while the lowest correlations (<0.4) for bread and meat products. The proportion of subjects classified within one quartile (in the same/adjacent category) by FFQ and EDR ranged from 67% (for meat products) to 88% (for fruit juice). Extreme misclassification into the opposite quartiles was for all food groups < 10%. The results indicate that our newly developed FFQ gives reproducible estimates of food group intake. Overall, moderate levels of relative validity were observed for estimates of food group intake.
PMCID: PMC2672340  PMID: 19440290
Relative validity; reproducibility; FFQ; food intake; preschool; children; Belgium

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