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J Nutr. 2011 Sep;141(9):1705-11. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.135707. Epub 2011 Jul 6.

Less traditional diets in Chinese mothers and children are similarly linked to socioeconomic and cohort factors but vary with increasing child age.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition and Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.


Global shifts toward an increasingly Western diet and rises in nutrition-related noncommunicable diseases necessitate systematic examination of dietary change in adults and children. This study longitudinally examined mother and child dietary intakes and their relationship with socioeconomic factors across 4 mutually exclusive cohorts followed over 6- to 7-y time periods (cohort A: 1991-1997, cohort B: 1993-2000, cohort C: 1997-2004, cohort D: 2000-2006). The cohorts included 966 mother-child pairs (children 3-5 y at baseline) from the China Health and Nutrition Survey. Dietary intake was assessed using 24-h recall and household food consumption data; dietary variables were the percentage of total energy from animal-source foods (ASF), fats/oils, and grains. Mother-child comparison of dietary variables used average annual change measures, Spearman partial correlations, random effects models, and seemingly unrelated regression models and estimation. Whereas children were earlier adopters and maintainers of a less traditional Chinese diet, mothers experienced greater shifts away from the traditional Chinese diet with increasing child age. Mother-child correlations for the dietary variables ranged from 0.46 to 0.89 (P < 0.001). Similar increased intake of ASF and decreased intake of grains were reported for mothers and children of urban (vs. rural) residence and with higher levels of maternal education (P < 0.001). A comparable cohort effect was shown, with mothers and children consuming a less traditional Chinese diet in the later (C and D) compared to earlier (A and B) cohorts (P < 0.05). Our findings provide insight into dietary changes in mothers and children within the context of a rapidly changing nutrition and socioeconomic environment.

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