dietary patterns

Researchers investigate dietary patterns in Mexican adolescents to identify common dietary patterns and their link to increasing obesity.

Dietary patterns are determined by choices we make and the foods we consume on a daily basis. Adiposity and metabolic risk results from poor nutrition. Adiposity refers to the growth of the adipose, or fat tissue occurring when there is an excess accumulation of lipids (fats) in the diet.  A high body-mass-index (BMI) in adolescents is always a cause for concern, as research has shown that challenges with metabolic risk lead to unhealthy conditions and diseases.

As published in the Journal of Nutrition, the researchers focused on Mexican adolescents between the ages of 8 to 14 years, to identify common dietary patterns and the relationship that exists between dietary patterns, adiposity, and metabolic risk. As previously observed by other researchers, Western nations have shown an association of specific dietary patterns being related to increasing obesity and metabolic risk. Trends towards increased obesity have been observed in Mexico, and scientists have hypothesized that this may in part be due to the increased economic growth and subsequent shift to more Western-style dietary patterns.

This cross-sectional study included 224 adolescents. The researchers administered food frequency questionnaires and analyzed the principal components to determined dietary patterns that they could compare with adiposity and metabolic risk. The data covered areas like mother’s marital status, education, and smoking habits, as well as the child’s age and physical activity. The researchers used a statistical approach called linear regression to examine associations of the dietary patterns with adiposity by measuring factors such as BMI, waist circumference, skinfold thickness, blood pressure, and a metabolic syndrome risk.

The research compared adolescents who had a very good diet characterized by high intakes of fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish, and legumes (called the “prudent” diet), to those who ate mostly processed meats, fried Mexican foods, and sweetened beverages (called the “transitioning” diet).   These diets were “transitioning” away from the traditional Mexican diet to a more Western style.

The results showed that boys who demonstrated a mostly “prudent” diet had a pattern showing lower C-peptide, lower CP-IR, and as such lower adiposity with metabolic risk. However, in girls, on the transitioning pattern diet, the results showed higher subscapular and triceps skinfold thickness. Additionally, the researchers found that during puberty, there was no change observed based on the results for “prudent” and “transitioning” diets in adolescents. Adolescent boys who maintained the prudent dietary pattern had decreased metabolic risk. However, the adolescent girls who had transitioning dietary pattern recorded higher adiposity.

Education and advocacy should be extended for adolescence especially during this critical developmental period to prolong their health. This would also decrease metabolic risk during this crucial life stage to benefit long-term health. These results add to the growing body of literature that points to a diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, legumes, and whole grains as beneficial for metabolic health, whereas a diet high in fried foods, refined carbohydrates, and sugar-sweetened beverages as leading to increased weight gain.

Written by Dr. MòNique J. Grant Coke, DNP, MPH, BSN, Medical Writer


Perng, W., Fernandez, C., Peterson, K., Zhang, Z., Cantoral, A., Sanchez, B.,Maritsa Solano-González, M., Téllez-Rojo, M., Baylin, A. (2017). Dietary Patterns Exhibit Sex-Specific Associations with Adiposity and Metabolic Risk in a Cross-Sectional Study in Urban Mexican Adolescents. J. Nutr. .doi:10.3945/jn.117.256669

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