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Br J Nutr. 2000 Oct;84(4):541-8.

Tracking of nutrient intakes in adolescence: the experiences of the Young Hearts Project, Northern Ireland.

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  • 1Northern Ireland Centre for Diet and Health (NICHE), University of Ulster, UK.


This study evaluated the tracking of energy and nutrient intakes, assessed by diet history, in a random sample of adolescents (boys n 225, girls n 230) at baseline (age 12 years), and subsequently at age 15 years. Median energy (MJ/d) and macronutrient (g/d) intakes increased significantly (all P < 0.001) with increasing age in the boys. The girls' reported energy intake (MJ/d) remained stable over time, despite significant increases in BMI, weight and % body fat. Age-related changes in the girls' macronutrient intakes were inconsistent. When expressed in terms of nutrient density, the diets of both sexes became significantly richer, over time, in total folate (both sexes, P < 0.01), but poorer in Ca (boys P < 0.01, girls P < 0.001) and riboflavin (both sexes P < 0.001). Vitamin B6 (P < 0.001) and Fe (P < 0.05) densities increased in the boys, while the thiamin density of the girls' diets decreased (P < 0.001). Tracking, defined as maintenance of rank over time, was summarised using weighted kappa statistics (kappa). There were some significant changes in intakes at the group level; however, tracking of energy and nutrients in both sexes was only poor to fair (kappa < 0.40), indicating substantial drift of individuals between classes of intake over time. Particularly poor tracking was evident for % energy from sugars (kappa 0.09) and total fat (kappa 0.09) in the girls' diets. In conclusion, the poor to fair tracking observed in this cohort suggests that individual dietary patterns exhibited at 12 years of age are unlikely to be predictive of energy and nutrient intake at age 15 years.

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