Background/Objectives: To determine whether a 'junk food' diet at age 4½ is associated with behavioural problems at age 7. Subjects/Methods: Data on approximately 4000 children participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a birth cohort recruited in Avon, UK in 1991/92 were used. Behavioural problems were measured at age 7 using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ; maternal completion). Total difficulties and scores for the five sub-scales (hyperactivity, conduct and peer problems, emotional symptoms and pro-social behaviour) were calculated. Principal components analysis of dietary data (frequency of consumption of 57 foods/drinks) collected at age 4½ by maternal report was used to generate a 'junk food' factor. Data on confounders were available from questionnaires. Results: A one standard deviation increase in 'junk food' intake at age 4½ years was associated with increased hyperactivity at age 7 (odds ratio: 1.19; 95% confidence interval: 1.10, 1.29). This persisted after adjustment for confounders including intelligence quotient score (odds ratio: 1.13; 95% confidence interval: 1.01, 1.15). There was little evidence to support an association between 'junk food' intake and overall behavioural difficulties or other sub-scales of the SDQ. Conclusions: Children eating a diet high in 'junk food' in early childhood were more likely to be in the top 33% on the SDQ hyperactivity sub-scale at age 7. This may reflect a long-term nutritional imbalance, or differences in parenting style. This finding requires replication before it can provide an avenue for intervention.
|Translated title of the contribution||'Junk food' diet and childhood behavioural problems: results from the ALSPAC cohort|
|Pages (from-to)||491 - 498|
|Number of pages||10|
|Journal||European Journal of Clinical Nutrition|
|Publication status||Published - 2009|