Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

Tracking of energy and nutrient intakes from adolescence to young adulthood: the experiences of the Young Hearts Project, Northern Ireland

AM Gallaghera1 c1, PJ Robsona1, MBE Livingstonea1, GW Crana2, JJ Straina1, L J Murraya2, JM Savagea3 and CAG Borehama4

a1 Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health (NICHE), University of Ulster, Coleraine, BT52 1SA, UK

a2 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, The Queen's University of Belfast, Institute of Clinical Science, Belfast, BT12 6BJ, UK

a3 Department of Child Health, The Queen's University of Belfast, Clinical Institute, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, BT12 6BJ, UK

a4 School of Leisure and Tourism, University of Ulster, Jordanstown, BT37 0QB, UK


Objective To assess tracking of energy and nutrient intakes between adolescence and young adulthood.

Design Longitudinal study of a random sample of adolescents (aged 15 years at baseline). The extent of tracking of dietary intakes (assessed by diet history) was investigated using weighted kappa statistics (κ).

Setting Northern Ireland population survey.

Subjects Adolescents who participated in the Young Hearts Project, Northern Ireland at age 15 years, and subsequently at young adulthood aged between 20 and 25 years (n = 245 males, n = 231 females).

Results Despite overall increases in height and weight (both P < 0.001), increases in body mass index in males (P < 0.001) and body fatness in females (P < 0.001), median reported intakes of energy (kJ kg− 1 day− 1), carbohydrate (g day− 1) and fat (g day− 1) decreased (all P < 0.001) over time. Expressed as nutrient densities (per MJ), diets at young adulthood were overall richer in thiamin, vitamin B6, total folate (all P < 0.001), vitamin C (P < 0.01) and vitamin D (P < 0.05). Whereas the nutrient density of the males' diets decreased over time for calcium (P < 0.05) and vitamin A (P < 0.001), iron and riboflavin densities increased in the females' diet (P < 0.001). Tracking of energy (MJ day− 1) and nutrient intakes (expressed per MJ day− 1) at the individual level was only poor to fair (all κ < 0.25), indicating substantial drift of subjects between the low, medium and high classes of intake with increasing age.

Conclusions These data suggest that individual dietary patterns exhibited at 15 years of age are unlikely to be predictive of dietary intakes at young adulthood.

(Accepted May 18 2005)

(Received December 08 2004)


c1 Corresponding author: Email