Associations between diet, food habits and body weight status in Malay families

The Family Diet Study: a cross-sectional study into the associations between diet, food habits and body weight status in Malay families

Yang et al,. JHND Early View


Childhood obesity is becoming more common as Malaysia experiences rapid nutrition transition. Current evidence related to parental influences on child dietary intake and body weight status is limited. The present study aimed to report, among Malay families, the prevalence of energy mis-reporting and dietary relationships within family dyads.


The cross-sectional Family Diet Study (n = 236) was conducted at five primary schools in central of Peninsular Malaysia. Each family consisted of a Malay child, aged 8–12 years, and their main caregiver(s). Information on socio-demographics, dietary intake and anthropometry were collected. Correlations and regression analyses were used to assess dietary relationships within family dyads.


Approximately 29.6% of the children and 75.0% parents were categorised as being overweight or obese. Intakes of nutrients and food groups were below the national recommended targets for majority of children and adults. A large proportion of energy intake mis-reporters were identified: mothers (55.5%), fathers (40.2%) and children (40.2%). Children’s body mass index (BMI) was positively associated with parental BMI (fathers, r = 0.37; mothers, r = 0.34; P < 0.01). For dietary intakes, moderate-to-strong (0.35–0.72) and weak-to-moderate (0.16–0.35) correlations were found between mother–father and child–parent dyads, respectively. Multiple regression revealed that maternal percentage energy from fat (β = 0.09, P < 0.01) explained 81% of the variation in children’s fat intake.


Clear parental dietary relationships, especially child–mother dyads, were found. Despite a significant proportion of families with members who were overweight or obese, the majority reported dietary intakes below recommended levels, distorted by energy mis-reporting. The findings of the present study can inform interventions targeting parent–child relationships to improve family dietary patterns in Malaysia.


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