Public Health Nutrition

Monitoring and surveillance

A prospective study of eating away-from-home meals and weight gain in a Mediterranean population: the SUN (Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra) cohort

Maira Bes-Rastrolloa1 c1, Francisco Javier Basterra-Gortaria1a2, Almudena Sánchez-Villegasa1a3, Amelia Martia4, José Alfredo Martíneza4 and Miguel Angel Martínez-Gonzáleza1

a1 Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of Navarra, c/ Irunlarrea, 1 Ed. Investigación, E-31008 Pamplona (Navarra), Spain

a2 Department of Endocrinology, Hospital of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain

a3 Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Las Palmas, Las Palmas, Spain

a4 Department of Nutrition, Food Science, Physiology, and Toxicology, University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain


Objective The traditional Mediterranean food pattern is more easily preserved when meals are eaten at home; however, as a result of recent socio-economic changes, away-from-home meal consumption has increased rapidly in Mediterranean countries. Little research has been conducted so far to investigate the long-term health effects of these changes in the Mediterranean area.

Design In a prospective Spanish dynamic cohort of 9182 university graduates (the SUN Study; Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra, University of Navarra Follow-up) with a mean age of 37 years, followed up for an average of 4·4 years, we assessed the association between the frequency of eating out of home and weight gain or incident overweight/obesity. Dietary habits were assessed with an FFQ previously validated in Spain.

Results During follow-up, eating-out consumers (two times or more per week) had higher average adjusted weight gain (+129 g/year, P < 0·001) and higher adjusted risk of gaining 2 kg or more per year (OR = 1·36; 95 % CI 1·13, 1·63) than non-eating-out consumers. Among participants with baseline BMI < 25 kg/m2, we observed 855 new cases of overweight/obesity. Eating away-from-home meals was significantly associated with a higher risk of becoming overweight/obese (hazard ratio = 1·33; 95 % CI 1·13, 1·57).

Conclusions A higher frequency of meals eaten out of home may play a role in the current obesity epidemic observed in some Mediterranean countries.

(Received August 04 2008)

(Accepted November 01 2009)

(Online publication December 03 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Email