Theses Doctoral

Maternal Diet Quality as a Predictor of Child Adiposity Among New York City Head Start Families

Ashby-Thompson, Maxine

Childhood obesity disproportionately affects low-income families and those of Hispanic origin. Obesity is prevalent even among preschool children, and effective preventive interventions remain to be developed. Mothers, through their food choices and modeling behaviors, exert powerful influence over children’s diets and may therefore be ideal targets for such interventions. The purpose of this study was to assess the association between maternal diet quality and children’s body size.
Data came from a study of Endotoxin, Obesity, and Asthma in NYC Head Start, to which African American and Hispanic families were recruited. Mothers answered a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) and a questionnaire about maternal and child characteristics. Children’s body size was measured by child’s BMI z-score and percentile, child’s Waist-to-Height Ratio (WHtR), and child’s triceps and subscapular skinfold thicknesses. For the dissertation, we assessed maternal diet quality measured by HEI-2015 Total Score, and children’s adiposity at baseline and at one- and two-year follow-ups. This secondary analysis used data from 380 mother-child dyads with complete exposure and outcome data at baseline and, of those dyads, 167 mothers and 235 children who provided data at one-year follow-up, and 73 mothers and 110 children who did so at two-year follow-up.
Mean HEI-2015 total score at baseline was 64.3±8.7 of 100, but 69.8±8.6 for Dominican and 60.2±6.5 for Mexican mothers. HEI scores were also associated with mothers’ marital status. Of the children, 44% were considered overweight or obese and 75% had WHtR > 0.5. Children of Mexican descent had higher WHtR than other groups. Maternal diet quality was not associated with any of the adiposity variables (BMI z-score, Triceps nor Subscapular z-score, or WHtR) at baseline or one-year follow-up. In regression models, Mexican ethnicity and younger age were associated with greater WHtR at baseline, but not one year later.
Although HEI-2015 score was not related to child adiposity, it was related to national origin, which was related to adiposity. Maternal diet quality needs further study and consideration as a target for intervention; it may be an important indicator of family health.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
Wolf, Randi
Contento, Isobel R.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
August 26, 2019