British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Tracking of fruit and vegetable consumption from adolescence into adulthood and its longitudinal association with overweight

Saskia J. te Veldea1 c1, Jos W. R. Twiska2a3 and Johannes Bruga1

a1 Department of Public Health, Erasmus University Medical Centre Rotterdam, Room AE-130, PO Box 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, the Netherlands

a2 Institute of Health Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

a3 Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, the Netherlands


The objective of the present study was to assess to what extent fruit and vegetable intakes track over a 24-year time period and to assess longitudinal associations between fruit and vegetable intakes and (change in) BMI and sum of skinfolds. Dietary intake and anthropometrics were repeatedly assessed for 168 men and women between the ages of 12 and 36 years. Linear general estimating equations analyses were applied (1) to estimate tracking coefficients, (2) to estimate predictability for meeting the national recommendation for fruit and vegetable intake and for being in the highest quartile for fruit and vegetable intake, and (3) to estimate the association between fruit and vegetable intake and BMI and sum of skinfolds. We found that tracking coefficients were 0·33 (P < 0·001) for fruit intake and 0·27 (P < 0·001) for vegetable intake. Mean fruit intake decreased over a 24-year period. For fruit intake, predictability was higher in men than in women (OR 6·02 (P < 0·001) and 2·33 (P = 0·001) for meeting the recommendation for men and women respectively). After adjustment, fruit intake was not associated with BMI, but being in the lowest quartile of fruit intake was significantly associated with a lower sum of skinfolds. Women in the lowest quartiles of vegetable intake had significantly higher BMI and sum of skinfolds and also greater positive changes in these parameters. In conclusion, tracking and predictability for fruit and vegetable intake appear to be low to moderate, which might indicate that fruit and vegetable promotion should be started at an early age and continued into adulthood. Despite the fact that we only observed beneficial weight-maintaining effects of vegetable intake in women, promoting vegetables is important for both sexes because of other positive properties of vegetables. No evidence was found for promoting fruit intake as a means of weight maintenance.

(Received August 09 2006)

(Revised February 08 2007)

(Accepted February 12 2007)


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr Saskia te Velde, fax +31 10 4638474, email


Abbreviations: AGAHLS, Amsterdam Growth and Health Longitudinal Study