Differences in energy balance-related behaviours in European preschool children: The ToyBox-study

ToyBox-study group

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Background: The aim of the current study was to compare levels of energy balance-related behaviours (physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and dietary behaviours (more specifically water consumption, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and unhealthy snacking)) in four- to six-year-old preschoolers from six European countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Poland, and Spain) within the ToyBox cross-sectional study. Methods: A sample of 4,045 preschoolers (4.77 ± 0.43 years; 52.2% boys) had valid physical activity data (steps per day), parents of 8,117 preschoolers (4.78 ± 0.46 years; 53.0% boys) completed a parental questionnaire with questions on sedentary behaviours (television viewing, computer use, and quiet play), and parents of 7,244 preschoolers (4.77 ± 0.44 years; 52.0% boys) completed a food frequency questionnaire with questions on water consumption, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and unhealthy snacking. Results: The highest levels of physical activity were found in Spain (12,669 steps/day on weekdays), while the lowest levels were found in Bulgaria and Greece (9,777 and 9,656 steps/day on weekdays, respectively). German preschoolers spent the least amount of time in television viewing (43.3 min/day on weekdays), while Greek preschoolers spent the most time in television viewing (88.5 min/day on weekdays). A considerable amount of time was spent in quiet play in all countries, with the highest levels in Poland (104.9 min/day on weekdays), and the lowest levels in Spain (60.4 min/day on weekdays). Belgian, German, and Polish preschoolers had the lowest intakes of water and the highest intakes of sugar-sweetened beverages. The intake of snacks was the highest in Belgian preschoolers (73.1 g/day) and the lowest in Greek preschoolers (53.3 g/day). Conclusions: Across six European countries, differences in preschoolers' energy balance-related behaviours were found. Future interventions should target European preschoolers ' energy balance- related behaviours simultaneously, but should apply country-specific adaptations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0118303
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2015

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