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Open Access Research article

Meal frequencies in early adolescence predict meal frequencies in late adolescence and early adulthood

Trine Pagh Pedersen*, Bjørn E Holstein, Esben Meulengracht Flachs and Mette Rasmussen

Author affiliations

National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Øster Farimagsgade 5, 1353 Copenhagen K, Denmark

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:445  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-445

Published: 4 May 2013

Abstract

Background

Health and risk behaviours tend to be maintained from adolescence into adulthood. There is little knowledge on whether meal frequencies in adolescence are maintained into adulthood. We investigated whether breakfast, lunch and evening meal frequencies in early adolescence predicted meal frequencies in late adolescence and in early adulthood. Further, the modifying effect of gender and adolescent family structure were investigated.

Methods

National representative sample of 15-year-olds in Denmark with 4 and 12 year follow-up studies with measurement of breakfast, lunch and evening meal frequencies. A total of 561 persons completed questionnaires at age 15 years (baseline 1990, n=847, response rate 84.6%), age 19 years (n=729, response rate 73.2%) and age 27 years (n=614, response rate 61.6%).

Results

Low meal frequencies at age 15 years was a significant predictor for having low meal frequencies at age 19 years (odds ratio (OR, 95% CI)) varying between 2.11, 1.33-3.34 and 7.48, 3.64-15.41). Also, low meal frequencies at age 19 years predicted low meal frequencies at age 27 years (OR varying between 2.26, 1.30-3.91 and 4.38, 2.36-8.13). Significant predictions over the full study period were seen for low breakfast frequency and low lunch frequency (OR varying between 1.78, 1.13-2.81 and 2.58, 1.31-5.07). Analyses stratified by gender showed the same patterns (OR varying between 1.88, 1.13-3.14 and 8.30, 2.85-24.16). However, the observed predictions were not statistical significant among men between age 15 and 27 years. Analyses stratified by adolescent family structure revealed different lunch predictions in strata.

Conclusions

Having low meal frequencies in early adolescence predicted low meal frequencies in late adolescence and early adulthood. We propose that promotion of regular meals become a prioritised issue within health education.

Keywords:
Meal frequencies; Breakfast; Lunch; Evening meal; Longitudinal study; Adolescence; Early adulthood