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J Nutr. 2011 Jul;141(7):1348-54. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.137000. Epub 2011 May 11.

Direction of associations between added sugar intake in early childhood and body mass index at age 7 years may depend on intake levels.

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Hospital of Leverkusen, Department of Pediatrics, 51375 Leverkusen, Germany.


Dietary factors, especially during early childhood, have been discussed as potentially critical for the development of childhood overweight. This study evaluated associations between added sugar intake during early childhood and BMI and body fat at age 7 y. Analysis was based on data from 216 participants of the Dortmund Nutritional and Anthropometric Longitudinally Designed (DONALD) Study. Life-course plots were constructed to evaluate the association between added sugar intake at different ages (0.5, 1, 1.5, and 2 y) and BMI SD score (BMI-SDS) and % body fat (%BF) at age 7 y. Multivariable analyses were performed for the periods identified as critical for later BMI and body fat. Added sugar intake at age 1 y and the change in intake levels during the second year of life emerged as potentially critical. At age 1 y, a higher total added sugar intake was related to a lower BMI-SDS at age 7 y [adjusted β ± SE: -0.116 ± 0.057 BMI-SDS/percent energy (%En) added sugar; P = 0.04]. Conversely, an increase in total added sugar in the second year of life (Δ%En between age 1 and 2 y) tended to be associated with a higher BMI-SDS (adjusted β ± SE: 0.074 ± 0.043 BMI-SDS/Δ%En added sugar; P = 0.09). No associations were observed with %BF. In conclusion, added sugar intake at low intake levels during early childhood does not appear to be critical for BMI and body fat at age 7 y. However, detrimental effects on BMI development may emerge when added sugar intakes are increased to higher levels.

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