Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: The importance of dietary sugar compared with fat in the development of obesity is currently a topic of debate. OBJECTIVE: We aimed to identify dietary patterns (DPs) characterized by high sugar content, high fat content, or both and their longitudinal associations with adiposity during childhood and adolescence. METHODS: Participants were 6722 children from the ALSPAC (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children) who were born in 1991-1992. DPs were characterized by percentage of total energy intake (%E) from free sugars, %E from total fat, and dietary energy density (DED) and fiber density by using reduced rank regression at 7, 10, and 13 y of age. Total body fat mass was measured at 11, 13, and 15 y of age. Regression analyses were used to adjust for dietary misreporting, physical activity, and maternal social class. RESULTS: Two major DPs were identified: higher z scores for DP1 were associated with greater DED, greater %E from free sugars and total fat, and lower fiber density; higher z scores for DP2 were associated with greater %E from free sugars but lower %E from total fat and DED. A 1-SD increase in z score for DP1 was associated with a mean increase in the fat mass index z score of 0.04 SD units (95% CI: 0.01, 0.07; P = 0.017) and greater odds of excess adiposity (OR: 1.12; 95% CI: 1.0, 1.25; P = 0.038). DP2 was not associated with adiposity. CONCLUSIONS: An energy-dense DP high in %E from total fat and free sugars is associated with greater adiposity in childhood and adolescence. This appears to confirm the role of both fat and sugar and provides a basis for food-based dietary guidelines to prevent obesity in children.

Original publication




Journal article


J Nutr

Publication Date



ALSPAC, adiposity, adolescents, children, diet, dietary patterns, energy density, fat, obesity, sugar