Researchers map out nutrient intake of kids from low- and middle-income households in Chilean capital

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Progat
Getty Images / Progat

Related tags: Nutrition, Chile, Sodium, Calorie

Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute a significant amount of daily calories among preschool children and adolescents from low- and middle-income households in a section of Chile’s capital, new study reveals.

This was among the insights that researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Chile in Santiago found after analyzing 24-hour dietary recalls collected from two health surveys conducted in 2016.

A dietary recall is when survey respondents list out what they’ve eaten in the past 24 hours based on memory. According to the researchers, single 24-hour dietary recalls are a good method to estimate the average intake of nutrients among a select group of people.

In addition to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, the researchers also found that foods obtained at home tended to have lower caloric densities but higher sugar and sodium densities than foods obtained away from home.

“This study aimed to examine preschool children’s and adolescents’ daily intakes of key nutrients of concern (calories, sugars, saturated fats, and sodium) by food source and eating location,”​ they wrote in their paper, published today​ in the journal Nutrients.

The data analyzed in the study were collected before the Chilean government introduced​the the National Law of Food Labeling and Advertising. In a February 2018 article, The New York Times reported​ that nutrition experts say Chile’s measures are “the world’s most ambitious attempt to remake a country’s food culture.”

Fittingly, researchers of this present study argued that analyzing data from before the regulations came into effect set an important baseline from which to evaluate the regulations’ performance.

A comparison of nutritional intake in other countries

In the paper’s introduction, the researchers cited similar studies of children in the same age group in different countries in the Americas.

Studies in the United States have shown that while foods obtained at home contribute the largest proportion of children’s daily calories, foods eaten at home are not necessarily of better nutritional quality than foods eaten at other locations, they reported.

Furthermore, “foods children and adolescents obtain from stores and schools are not lower in solid fats and added sugars (empty calories) than foods obtained from fast food restaurants.”

This trend has been observed among Mexican children, where foods eaten at home contribute the most total calories and calories from solid fats and added sugars.

In contrast, among Brazilian children, lunches consumed at home are of better nutritional quality (according to the amounts of total fats and saturated fats) than lunches consumed away from home, the researchers wrote.

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Based on their analysis of Chilean children in Santiago’s southeast, eating patterns there resemble that of the US and Mexico, where food obtained at home tended to have higher sugar and sodium densities than from outside of home.

Study details

Data that the researchers collected came from two longitudinal cohort studies: The Growth and Obesity Cohort Study which consisted of adolescents 12 to 14 years old, and the Food Environment Chilean Cohort, which consisted of preschool children aged between 3 and 6 years.

The sample data included 839 children aged 3 to 6, and 643 adolescents aged 12 to 14.

To capture nutrient intake on school days, the researchers excluded dietary recalls performed during weekends or holidays.

They also excluded participants who reported they were sick or celebrated a special occasion such as a birthday during the recall time period.

“Future research is needed to understand whether Chile’s 2016 regulations that require warning labels; restrict marketing of foods and beverages high in calories, added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium; and ban regulated products from schools have affected dietary quality across food sources and eating locations,”​ they wrote.

Lindsey Smith Taillie, assistant professor of nutrition at the UNC Gilling School and co-author of this study was also a co-author in a February 2019 study assessing Chile’s food regulations​.

Published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, ​she said that “regulations really change how mothers think about and purchase food for their children. Perhaps more importantly, children are key drivers in changing social norms and behaviors after the law."

Source: Nutrients
Published online, https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11071695
Dietary Intake by Food Source and Eating Location in Low- and Middle-Income Chilean Preschool Children and Adolescents from Southeast Santiago”
Authors: Natalia Rebolledo, et al.

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