Public Health Nutrition


Parental education and frequency of food consumption in European children: the IDEFICS study

Juan Miguel Fernández-Alviraa1 c1, Theodora Mouratidoua1, Karin Bammanna2, Antje Hebestreita2, Gianvincenzo Barbaa3, Sabina Sieria4, Lucia Reischa5, Gabriele Eibena6, Charalampos Hadjigeorgioua7, Eva Kovacsa8, Inge Huybrechtsa9 and Luis A Morenoa1 on behalf of the IDEFICS Consortium

a1 GENUD (Growth, Exercise, NUtrition and Development) Research Group, University School of Health Sciences, University of Zaragoza, Edificio Cervantes, C/Corona de Aragón 42, 50009 Zaragoza, Spain

a2 Bremen Institute for Prevention Research and Social Medicine, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany

a3 Unit of Epidemiology and Population Genetics, Institute of Food Sciences, National Research Council, Avellino, Italy

a4 Department of Preventive and Predictive Medicine, Nutritional Epidemiology Unit, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

a5 Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark

a6 Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Public Health Epidemiology Unit, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

a7 Research and Education Institute of Child Health, Strovolos, Cyprus

a8 Department of Paediatrics, University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary

a9 Department of Public Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium


Objective To assess the relationship between parental education level and the consumption frequency of obesity-related foods in European children.

Design The analysis was based on data from the cross-sectional baseline survey of a prospective cohort study. The effects of parental education on food consumption were explored using analysis of covariance and logistic regression.

Setting Primary schools and pre-schools of selected regions in Italy, Estonia, Cyprus, Belgium, Sweden, Hungary, Germany and Spain.

Subjects Participants (n 14 426) of the IDEFICS baseline cohort study aged 2 to 9 years.

Results Parental education level affected the intake of obesity-related foods in children. Children in the low and medium parental education level groups had lower odds of more frequently eating low-sugar and low-fat foods (vegetables, fruits, pasta/noodles/rice and wholemeal bread) and higher odds of more frequently eating high-sugar and high-fat foods (fried potatoes, fruits with sugar and nuts, snacks/desserts and sugared beverages; P < 0·001). The largest odds ratio differences were found in the low category (reference category: high) for vegetables (OR = 0·56; 95 % CI 0·47, 0·65), fruits (OR = 0·56; 95 % CI 0·48, 0·65), fruits with sugar and nuts (OR = 2·23; 95 % CI 1·92, 2·59) and sugared beverages (OR = 2·01; 95 % CI 1·77, 2·37).

Conclusions Low parental education level was associated with intakes of sugar-rich and fatty foods among children, while high parental education level was associated with intakes of low-sugar and low-fat foods. These findings should be taken into account in public health interventions, with more targeted policies aiming at an improvement of children's diet.

(Received October 04 2011)

(Revised March 23 2012)

(Accepted April 30 2012)

(Online publication June 12 2012)


  • Parental education;
  • Children;
  • IDEFICS study;
  • Food consumption


c1 Corresponding author. Email