Public Health Nutrition

Assessment and methodology

Dietary patterns in UK adolescents obtained from a dual-source FFQ and their associations with socio-economic position, nutrient intake and modes of eating

Kate Northstonea1 c1, Andrew DAC Smitha1, Victoria L Cribba1 and Pauline M Emmetta1

a1 School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol BS8 2BN, UK


Objective To derive dietary patterns using principal components analysis from separate FFQ completed by mothers and their teenagers and to assess associations with nutrient intakes and sociodemographic variables.

Design Two distinct FFQ were completed by 13-year-olds and their mothers, with some overlap in the foods covered. A combined data set was obtained.

Setting Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), Bristol, UK.

Subjects Teenagers (n 5334) with adequate dietary data.

Results Four patterns were obtained using principal components analysis: a ‘Traditional/health-conscious’ pattern, a ‘Processed’ pattern, a ‘Snacks/sugared drinks’ pattern and a ‘Vegetarian’ pattern. The ‘Traditional/health-conscious’ pattern was the most nutrient-rich, having high positive correlations with many nutrients. The ‘Processed’ and ‘Snacks/sugared drinks’ patterns showed little association with important nutrients but were positively associated with energy, fats and sugars. There were clear gender and sociodemographic differences across the patterns. Lower scores were seen on the ‘Traditional/health conscious’ and ‘Vegetarian’ patterns in males and in those with younger and less educated mothers. Higher scores were seen on the ‘Traditional/health-conscious’ and ‘Vegetarian’ patterns in girls and in those whose mothers had higher levels of education.

Conclusions It is important to establish healthy eating patterns by the teenage years. However, this is a time when it is difficult to accurately establish dietary intake from a single source, since teenagers consume increasing amounts of foods outside the home. Further dietary pattern studies should focus on teenagers and the source of dietary data collection merits consideration.

(Received June 27 2012)

(Revised April 16 2013)

(Accepted May 08 2013)

(Online publication June 20 2013)


  • Dietary patterns;
  • Adolescence;
  • Principal components analysis;
  • FFQ


c1 Corresponding author: Email