Unhealthy Snack Food and Beverage Consumption Is Associated with Lower Dietary Adequacy and Length-for-Age z-Scores among 12–23-Month-Olds in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

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This articles was published in the Journal of Nutrition in July 2019.

Abstract:

Background
Consumption of unhealthy snack foods and beverages (USFBs) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is rising, with global awareness increasing about risks of overnutrition. However, little is known about the relation between USFB consumption and young children’s diet/nutritional outcomes in contexts where nutrient density of complementary foods is often low.

Objectives
This study assessed the association of high USFB consumption, compared with low consumption, with nutrient intakes, dietary adequacy, iron status, and growth in young children in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.

Methods
A cross-sectional survey was conducted in a representative sample of 745 primary caregivers of children aged 12–23 mo. Food consumption was measured through quantitative 24-h recalls, and child anthropometric measurements and capillary blood samples were collected. Using adjusted linear/logistic regression models, nutrient intakes, dietary adequacy, length-for-age and weight-for-length z-scores (LAZ and WLZ, respectively), and iron status were compared between lowest and highest tertiles of consumption based on the contribution of USFBs to total energy intakes (TEIs). Mediation of the relation between USFB consumption and LAZ via lowered dietary adequacy was explored using structural equations modeling.

Results
On average, USFBs contributed 46.9% of TEI among the highest tertile of consumers, compared with 5.2% of TEI among the lowest. Compared with low-USFB consumers, high-USFB consumers had lower nutrient intakes and a greater proportion were at risk of inadequate intakes for 8 nutrients. Mean LAZ was nearly 0.3 SD lower among high-USFB consumers than low consumers (P = 0.003), with this relationship partially mediated through dietary adequacy. No associations were found with stunting prevalence or iron status. Prevalence of overweight/obesity was low.

Conclusions
In this LMIC context, high USFB consumption among young children was associated with inadequate micronutrient intakes, which can contribute to poor growth outcomes. Addressing increased availability of USFBs in LMIC food systems should be a priority for policies and programs aiming to safeguard child nutrition.

Authors:

Alissa M Pries, Andrea M Rehman, Suzanne Filteau, Nisha Sharma, Atul Upadhyay, & Elaine L Ferguson

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