Dietary energy density is associated with body weight status and vegetable intake in U.S. children

Jacqueline A. Vernarelli, Diane C. Mitchell, Terryl J. Hartman, Barbara J. Rolls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


The objective was to determine the relationship between dietary energy density (ED; kcal/g) and measured weight status in children. The present study used data from a nationally representative sample of 2442 children between 2 and 8 y old who participated in the 2001-2004 NHANES. Survey measures included 24-h dietary recall data, measurement of MyPyramid servings of various food groups, and anthropometry. The relationship among dietary ED, body weight status as calculated using the 2000 CDC growth charts, and food intake was evaluated using quartiles of ED. Additionally, other dietary characteristics associated with ED among children are described. Specific survey procedures were used in the analysis to account for sample weights, unequal selection probability, and the clustered design of the NHANES sample. In this sample, dietary ED was positively associated with body weight status in U.S. children aged 2-8 y. Obese children had a higher dietary ED than lean children (2.08 6 0.03 vs. 1.93 6 0.05; P = 0.02). Diets high in ED were also found to be associated with greater intakes of energy and added sugars, more energy from fat; and significantly lower intake of fruits and vegetables. Interventions that lower dietary ED by means of increasing fruit and vegetable intake and decreasing fat consumption may be an effective strategy for reducing childhood obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2204-2210
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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