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Food and nutrient intakes by temperament traits: findings in the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study

European Journal of Clinical Nutritionvolume 72pages11361141 (2018) | Download Citation



Previous studies have shown that the temperament traits are related to risk factors for chronic diseases, which could be partly explained by lifestyle habits. However, little is known whether temperament traits associate with diet. The aim of this study was to examine the cross-sectional associations between temperament traits and the whole diet.


We studied 1668 men and women, aged 56−70, from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study. Temperament was measured using the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire. Information on diet was collected by a validated 128-item food frequency questionnaire. The associations of temperament traits; novelty seeking (NS), harm avoidance (HA), reward dependence (RD), and persistence (P), with diet were tested by linear regression analysis.


After adjustment for potential confounders, greater HA was related to poorer diet quality, including lower consumption of vegetables, fruits, fish and several vitamins. RD was associated with healthier diet quality, including higher consumption of vegetables and intake of vitamin E and lower intake of alcohol. NS was significantly related to higher intake of fish, fat and alcohol and lower consumption of cereals, milk products and carbohydrates. No significant associations between P and intake of foods and nutrients were observed.


Our results suggest that there is an association between temperament traits and diet. Especially greater HA seems to associate with poorer diet quality and greater RD with healthier diet quality.

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This study was funded by The Signe o. Ane Gyllenberg Foundation, The Juho Vainio Foundation, The Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation, The Academy of Finland, The Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation, The Finnish Diabetes Research Foundation, The Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research, Samfundet Folkhälsan, Liv och Hälsa and Finska Läkaresällskapet.

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Author notes

  1. These authors contributed equally: Mia-Maria Perälä, Anna-Maija Tiainen.


  1. Department of Public Health Solutions, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland

    • Mia-Maria Perälä
    • , Anna-Maija Tiainen
    • , Satu Männistö
    • , Niina E. Kaartinen
    • , Eero Kajantie
    •  & Johan G. Eriksson
  2. Folkhälsan Research Center, Helsinki, Finland

    • Mia-Maria Perälä
    • , Anna-Maija Tiainen
    •  & Johan G. Eriksson
  3. Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

    • Jari Lahti
    • , Marius Lahti
    • , Kati Heinonen
    • , Anu-Katriina Pesonen
    •  & Katri Räikkönen
  4. Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

    • Jari Lahti
  5. Hospital for Children and Adolescents, Helsinki University Hospital and University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

    • Eero Kajantie
  6. PEDEGO Research Unit, MRC Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland

    • Eero Kajantie
  7. Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki, Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland

    • Johan G. Eriksson
  8. Vasa Central Hospital, Vasa, Finland

    • Johan G. Eriksson


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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Mia-Maria Perälä.

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