Childhood happiness, self-esteem linked to good diet
Young children who are given healthy meals are more likely to have better self-esteem and fewer emotional and peer problems, such as having fewer friends or being picked on or bullied.
According to the study by researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, the results occurred regardless of body weight.
Author Dr Louise Arvidsson said: “We found that in young children aged two to nine years there is an association between adherence to healthy dietary guidelines and better psychological wellbeing, which includes fewer emotional problems, better relationships with other children and higher self-esteem, two years later. Our findings suggest that a healthy diet can improve wellbeing in children.”
Examining 7675 children two to nine years of age from eight European countries — Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Spain and Sweden — the researchers found that a higher Healthy Dietary Adherence Score (HDAS) at the beginning of the study period was associated with better self-esteem and fewer emotional and peer problems two years later.
The HDAS aims to capture adherence to healthy dietary guidelines, which include limiting intake of refined sugars, reducing fat intake and eating fruit and vegetables. A higher HDAS indicates better adherence to the guidelines — ie, healthier eating. The guidelines are common to the eight countries included in this study.
The authors found that better self-esteem at the beginning of the study period was associated with a higher HDAS two years later and that the associations between HDAS and wellbeing were similar for children who had normal weight and children who were overweight.
Dr Arvidsson said: “It was somewhat surprising to find that the association between baseline diet and better wellbeing two years later was independent of children’s socioeconomic position and their body weight.”
The authors used data from the Identification and Prevention of Dietary- and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants Study, a prospective cohort study that aims to understand how to prevent overweight in children while also considering the multiple factors that contribute to it.
The study was published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.
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