Dietary quality linkage to overall competence at school and emotional disturbance in representative Taiwanese young adolescents: dependence on gender, parental characteristics and personal behaviors

Lin Yuan Huang, Mark L. Wahlqvist, Meei Shyuan Lee, Po Huang Chiang

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    Background: Child school performance during puberty may be at increased risk through emotional disturbance. It is hypothesized that this may be mitigated by dietary quality. Methods: In a nationally representative sample (Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan, NAHSIT), 1371 Taiwanese aged 11-16 years, overall competence at school, (OCS) and emotional status have been assessed by teachers with the SAED (Scale for Assessing Emotional Disturbance). Parents provided family socio-demographics and students completed a behavioral and dietary questionnaire (Youth Healthy Eating Index - Taiwan, YHEI-TW). Associations between emotional disturbance (ED), OCS and dietary quality (YHEI-TW) were assessed in multiple linear regression models with adjustments for covariates including parental characteristics, personal behaviors, body fatness and puberty. Results: Boys or girls with ED had a less favorable OCS (p < 0.001), minimally dependent on YHEI-TW. On multivariable analysis there was a more positive association between OCS and YHEI-TW among boys (β = 0.05, p < 0.01) and girls (β = 0.07, p < 0.001). Poor dietary quality was associated with ED, especially in girls (β = - 0.06, p < 0.001). Additionally, parental characteristics, body fatness, and personal behaviors are associated with OCS. Puberty is associated with ED and may be indirectly linked to OCS. Conclusions: Unsatisfactory food intake is associated with the link between emotional disturbance and impaired school performance, as assessed by OCS, especially among girls. For both genders, socio-economic and behavioral factors including parenteral income, reading, screen viewing and smoking are modulators of this association. Puberty was a modifying factor in girls. Dietary quality is a relevant factor for health (ED) as well as education (OCS) during early adolescence.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number29
    Number of pages14
    JournalNutrition Journal
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2018


    • Dietary quality
    • Gender
    • Junior high school
    • Parental characteristics
    • Personal behaviors
    • Puberty
    • School performance

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