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To describe the meal patterns of Jena schoolchildren and their associations with children’s weight status and parental characteristics.
Twenty schools in Jena (∼100 000 inhabitants), south-east Germany.
A total of 2054 schoolchildren aged 7–14 years with information on BMI standard deviation score (BMI-SDS) and weight status (based on German reference values), of whom 1571 had additional information about their parents (parental education and employment status, weight status according to WHO guidelines) and meal patterns (school lunch participation rate, meal frequencies, breakfast consumption and frequency of family meals).
Weight status of the children was associated with weight status, education and employment status of the parents. Meal patterns were strongly dependent on children’s age and parental employment. As age increased, the frequency of meal consumption, participation rate in school lunches and the number of family meals decreased. Using linear regression analysis, a high inverse association between BMI-SDS and meal frequency was observed, in addition to relationships with parental weight status and paternal education.
Age-specific prevention programmes should encourage greater meal frequency. The close involvement of parents is essential in any strategy for improving children’s (families’) diets.
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