Little is known about the relationship between diet and behavioral problems in children, although one study found no associations between high intakes of processed snack foods and other foods high in fat and/or sugar in relation to behavioral problems. However, one must acknowledge the possible effect of children’s weight status on the association between diet and psychosocial well-being. For example, recent results from the IDEFICS (Identification and Prevention of Dietary- and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants study) suggests that childhood overweight increases the risk of poor health-related quality of life while poor well-being increases the risk of developing overweight.
In children the relationship between a healthy diet and psychosocial well-being has not been fully explored and the existing evidence is inconsistent. The following study investigates the chronology of the association between children’s adherence to healthy dietary guidelines and their well-being, with special attention to the influence of weight status on the association. To read the full comprehensive study, click on the link below.
In this study we documented a bidirectional association between adherence to healthy dietary guidelines and children’s self-esteem. Furthermore, prospective associations were found between higher Healthy Dietary Adherence Score (HDAS) at baseline and less emotional and peer problems at follow-up. These associations could not be explained by children’s weight status. These findings are unique in that they are based on a large longitudinal study of children from different parts of Europe, adding to the largely cross-sectional, current evidence on diet and psychosocial health in children.
This study is unique in that associations between components of the HDAS and well-being were explored. Fruit & vegetable consumption according to guidelines (400–500 g per day) was associated with all indicators of good well-being; fish intake according to the guidelines (2–3 times per week) was associated with better self-esteem and no emotional or peer problems; and finally, intake of whole meal according to guidelines was associated with no peer problems. These findings reflect the dietary recommendations for the prevention of depression in adults that were recently published by Opie et al. and suggest that these foods could be important for psychosocial well-being in younger populations. Since the indicators of well-being are measures of coping responses to external stressors like e.g. demand, challenges or events the present findings could indicate that a healthy diet is an important factor for coping ability in children.
These findings are fully consistent with current knowledge and assumptions that children’s physical and mental development is dependent on nutritional quality.
In addition, Children with overweight and obesity constitute a vulnerable group when it comes to psychosocial well-being due to the frequent stigmatization because of their excess weight. These children are to a higher extent subject to bullying as compared to children with normal weight.
In Conclusion, present findings suggest a bidirectional relation between diet quality and self-esteem. Additionally, higher adherence to healthy dietary guidelines at baseline was associated with fewer emotional and peer problems at follow-up, independent of children’s weight status. We have shown evidence of prospective associations between higher adherence to healthy dietary guidelines and better well-being in a large European cohort study. In contrast to previous research we focused on a large number of healthy components of the children’s diet hence not exclusively unhealthy food consumption. Furthermore, a bidirectional association was identified between higher adherence to the Healthy Diet Adherence score and better self-esteem. These results are not limited to normal weight or overweight children and suggest a particularly positive role of a healthy diet on children’s well-being that should be considered in future research on psychosocial well-being in children.