Public Health Nutrition

Monitoring and surveillance

Food group intake and central obesity among children and adolescents in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III)

M Loring Bradleea1, Martha R Singera1, M Mustafa Qureshia1 and Lynn L Moorea1 c1

a1 Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, Boston University School of Medicine, Harrison Court, 761 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA 02118, USA


Objective To explore mean food group intakes associated with central obesity anthropometry among children and adolescents enrolled in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III).

Design Cross-sectional study.

Setting Representative sampling of the US population (1998–2002).

Subjects Subjects were 3761 children (5–11 years) and 1803 adolescents (12–16 years) with single 24 h dietary recalls and anthropometric measures of central body fat (waist circumference and sum of subscapular and suprailiac skinfold thicknesses).

Results Results were controlled for confounding by age, height, race/ethnicity, Tanner stage, television viewing and parental education. In younger children, there was no relationship between central adiposity and mean intakes of dairy, fruit, vegetables or grains, while a positive association with meat intake was found among boys. In adolescent boys and girls, central body fat measures were inversely associated with mean dairy and grain intakes. Adolescent boys in the highest quartile of central adiposity consumed less fruit and fewer vegetables; those in the lowest central adiposity quartile consumed less meat. Finally, adolescents who met the criteria for central obesity (waist circumference ≥85th percentile for age and sex) reported consuming significantly less total dairy (as well as milk and cheese separately), total grains (whole and refined) and total fruit and vegetables. There was no association with meat consumption. To test the stability of these findings, the final analysis was replicated in 2541 same-aged adolescents from NHANES 1999–2002; the results were very similar.

Conclusions These cross-sectional analyses suggest that intakes of dairy, grains and total fruits and vegetables are inversely associated with central obesity among adolescents.

(Received October 23 2008)

(Accepted August 11 2009)

(Online publication September 22 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Email