British Journal of Nutrition

Dietary Surveys and Nutritional Epidemiology

A brief assessment of eating habits and weight gain in a Mediterranean cohort

Itziar Zazpea1a2 c1, Maira Bes-Rastrolloa1, Miguel Ruiz-Canelaa3, Almudena Sánchez-Villegasa4, Manolo Serrano-Martíneza1 and Miguel Angel Martínez-Gonzáleza1

a1 Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, School of Medicine, University of Navarra, Irunlarrea 1, 31080 Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

a2 Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Physiology and Toxicology, School of Pharmacy, University of Navarra, Irunlarrea 1, 31080 Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

a3 Department of Biomedical Humanities, School of Medicine, University of Navarra, Irunlarrea 1, 31080 Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

a4 Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain


Assessment of eating habits (EH) through closed questions could be an alternative tool to assess diet as a predictor of weight change in epidemiological studies. The aim was to assess the association between baseline EH and the risk of weight gain or becoming overweight/obese in a Spanish dynamic prospective cohort (the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra Project) of 10 509 participants. The baseline questionnaire included ten short questions with two possible answers: yes or no. We calculated a baseline EH score, categorised in quartiles, positively weighting answers on more fruit, vegetables, fish and fibre and less meat, sweets and pastries, fat, butter, fatty meats and added sugar in drinks. Reducing the consumption of meat or fat and removing fat from meat were significantly associated with lower weight gain. The partial correlation coefficient between EH score and weight change was − 0·033 (P = 0·001). We observed 1063 cases of incident overweight/obesity among 7217 participants without overweight/obesity at baseline. Trying to eat more fruit, fish or fibre and less meat was inversely significantly associated with incident overweight/obesity. Those participants in the upper quartile of the score were at a 38 % (adjusted OR 0·62; 95 % CI 0·48, 0·81) lower risk of developing overweight/obesity during the follow-up compared with those in the lower quartile. However, the receiver-operating characteristic curves for the model with and without the EH score were materially identical. Despite the apparent significant inverse association, this score had a low predictive value for future weight gain and for incident overweight/obesity in a Mediterranean population, although some EH were independently and positively associated with weight gain.

(Received March 16 2010)

(Revised August 31 2010)

(Accepted September 14 2010)

(Online publication December 08 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: I. Zazpe, fax +34 948 42 56 49, email


Abbreviations: EH, eating habits; EPIC, European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition; MET, metabolic equivalent; SUN, Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra