The impact of eating behaviors on the body composition among Chinese children and adolescents has not been extensively studied. Our aim was to examine whether the eating behaviors among Chinese children and adolescents were associated with their body composition.
2,109 children and adolescents (52.0% boys) aged 6-17 years were cross-sectionally recruited in South China. Data regarding eating behaviors (i.e. eating breakfast regularly, having dinner with their parents regularly, and having snacks) were collected by a self-reported questionnaire. Height, weight and skinfold thickness were measured to calculate body mass index (BMI), age- and gender-specific Z-scores of BMI (BMI z_score) and percent body fat (%BF). International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) criteria were used to define childhood overweight and obesity.
There were no significant associations between eating behaviors and incidence of overweight/obesity among boys and girls. Girls who ate breakfast regularly (≥5 times per week) had lower %BF (p=0.0005) compared with breakfast skippers. Boys who reported eating breakfast regularly had higher BMI z_score (p=0.04) than those who did not. Moreover, having dinner with parents regularly correlated strongly with lower %BF (p < 0.0001) in girls and higher BMI z_score in boys (p=0.03). In girls, having snacks was negatively associated with %BF, while no association was found in boys.
Our data suggest that the beneficial impact of eating breakfast regularly and having dinner with parents on percent body fat appears to be more relevant for girls. Eating breakfast regularly, having dinner with parents and having snacks seem to be unbeneficial for body composition only in boys.