• activity;
  • children;
  • confectionery;
  • diet;
  • overweight;
  • sugar

Summary  This study explored the associations between weight status, physical activity and diet among young people in Britain, with special reference to consumption of biscuits, cakes and confectionery (BCC) and the impact of under-reporting and dieting. The sample consisted of 1294 children aged 7–18 years (655 boys and 639 girls) who had completed all three relevant aspects of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey of Young People (i.e. 7-day physical activity diary, 7-day dietary record and weight/height measurement) (Gregory & Lowe 2000). Age-adjusted body mass index (BMI) was positively associated with sedentary activity and inversely associated with moderate or vigorous activity among boys. Among girls, associations between BMI and activity were weaker. After adjustment for age, gender, under-reporting and dieting, predictors of overweight in the logistic regression model included components of energy intakes, and energy expenditure. Each extra megajoule (MJ) of energy from BCC increased the odds of overweight by 24% (OR 1.24, 95% confidence interval 1.02–1.52) while energy from other foods (per MJ) increased the odds by 76% (OR 1.76, 95% confidence interval 1.55–2.0). In the same model, each hour in moderate/vigorous activity reduced the odds by 26% (OR 0.74, 95% confidence interval 0.61–0.90); while each hour watching television, playing computer games or listening to music increased it by 10% (OR 1.10, 95% confidence interval 1.0–1.21). Thus overweight young people were no more likely to over consume sweet foods (biscuits cakes and confectionery) than other sources of energy. We conclude that the problem of overweight needs to be seen in its multidimensional context, involving activity and inactivity, energy intake and food habits. Intervention studies are needed to establish cause and effect relationships, but good observational studies adjusted for confounders, can add to the evidence base.