Background Obesity is increasing worldwide, reaching alarming proportions. Eating habits have changed over time and nowadays children and adolescents' environment favours the adoption of unhealthy eating behaviours leading to metabolic impairment.
Objective To explore the impact of eating risk factors and their cumulative effect on anthropometric characteristics in French primary school children.
Methods A total of 278 healthy French children (7.50 ± 0.67 years old) and their legal representatives agreed to take part in this study. Parents were asked to fill in an eating habits clinical questionnaire with questions about skipping breakfast, snacking between meals, eating in front of the TV and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. On the basis of the answers, children were classified into four categories as a function of the number of eating risk factors they presented. Body mass index (BMI), the sum of four skinfolds (Σ4 skinfolds: tricipital, bicipital, sub-scapular and supra-iliac) and waist circumference (WC) were measured. BMI was transformed into z-BMI for each child.
Results anova and unpaired t-test provided significantly higher z-BMI, Σ4 skinfolds and WC in children who were used to skipping breakfast, snacking, watching TV while eating and consuming sugar-sweetened beverages. The more children accumulated eating risk factors, the higher were their z-BMI, Σ4 skinfolds and WC (manova: P < 0.001).
Conclusions Eating habits appear to be associated with anthropometric characteristics in French primary school children. Anthropometric values (z-BMI, Σ4 skinfolds and WC) increased with the number of eating risk factors they presented.