Parental nutrition knowledge, geographical area and food habits in Italian schoolchildren: is there a link?

Noemi Bevilacqua, Irene Fabbri


Child obesity is growing constantly and its prevention is still one of the main public health targets, but unfortunately not all the factors of the phenomena are well understood yet. Parents, particularly mothers, play a key role in what and how much children eat, so they might also play a leading part in obesity prevention. This study investigates parental nutrition knowledge in order to evaluate its importance. For this purpose, in 2009 a representative sample of 2,193 8-9 year old children was measured in 3 geographical areas of North, Center and South Italy. Nutritional status, food habits, lifestyle and parental nutrition knowledge were evaluated. 9.8% of children were obese, 13.5% in the South, 10.2% in the Centre and 5.9% in the North. 32.7% of the parents showed good nutrition knowledge level, this knowledge was statistically associated (p=0.001) with the geographical area: 40.9% in the North 35.1% in the Centre and only 21.3% in the South. An association (p=0.001) between the information about breakfast and actual frequency of consumption was found: when a parent considers this meal as “quite important” we observed that 48.6% of the children have breakfast every day vs. 82.0% of children raised in families where this meal is considered “very important”. When parents think vegetables should be eaten “more than once a day” we observe that the percentage of children eating vegetables at least twice a day (18.4%) is visibly higher (p<0.001) if compared with those whose parents consider “once a day” to be enough (5.4%); whereas when the parents assess the recommended portion as “1-2 times a week” this percentage drops to 0.8%.
Even if further analyses are needed to confirm these findings, we can affirm that it is very important to run in-depth studies to better understand the home environment in which children are raised in order to develop adequate programs cut on parents’ nutrition knowledge and background, otherwise the interventions may not be as effective as they should be.

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Sponsoring Organizations:

Sapienza Università di Roma University of Helsinki Università di Torino Western Michigan University


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Edizioni Nuova Cultura


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