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Interventions and public health nutrition

Country-specific dietary patterns and associations with socioeconomic status in European children: the IDEFICS study



Children from lower socioeconomic status (SES) may be at higher risk of unhealthy eating. We described country-specific dietary patterns among children aged 2–9 years from eight European countries participating in the IDEFICS study and assessed the association of dietary patterns with an additive SES indicator.


Children aged 2–9 years from eight European countries were recruited in 2007–2008. Principal component analysis was applied to identify dietary country-specific patterns. Linear regression analyses were applied to assess their association with SES.


Two to four dietary patterns were identified in the participating regions. The existence of a ‘processed’ pattern was found in the eight regions. Also, a ‘healthy’ pattern was identified in seven of the eight regions. In addition, region-specific patterns were identified, reflecting the existing gastronomic and cultural differences in Europe. The ‘processed’ pattern was significantly inversely associated with the SES additive indicator in all countries except Sweden, whereas the ‘healthy’ pattern was positively associated with SES in the Belgian, Estonian, German and Hungarian regions, but was not significant in the Italian, Spanish and Swedish regions.


A ‘processed’ pattern and a ‘healthy‘ pattern were found in most of the participating countries in the IDEFICS study, with comparable food item profiles. The results showed a strong inverse association of SES with the ‘processed’ pattern, suggesting that children of parents with lower SES may be at higher risk of unhealthy eating. Therefore, special focus should be given to parents and their children from lower SES levels when developing healthy eating promotion strategies.

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We thank the IDEFICS children and their parents for their participation. The information in this document reflects the author’s view and is provided as is. This work was performed as part of the IDEFICS Study ( We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the European Community within the Sixth RTD Framework Programme Contract no. 016181 (FOOD) and the European Regional Development Fund (ICINN-FEDER).

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Correspondence to J M Fernández-Alvira.

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Table A1 Components and factor loadings for Belgium
Table A2 Components and factor loadings for Cyprus
Table A3 Components and factor loadings for Estonia
Table A4 Components and factor loadings for Germany
Table A5 Compoments and factor loadings for Hungary
Table A6 Components and factor loadings for Italy
Table A7 Components and factor loadings for Spain
Table A8 Components and factor loadings for Sweden

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Fernández-Alvira, J., Bammann, K., Pala, V. et al. Country-specific dietary patterns and associations with socioeconomic status in European children: the IDEFICS study. Eur J Clin Nutr 68, 811–821 (2014).

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