Childdiet 'not hit by income drop'
- 13 February 2014
- From the section Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland
A drop in a family's income does not affect the healthiness of their children's diet, according to research.
The Edinburgh University study compared the diet of 3,000 Scottish children at age of two and then again at five, as well as tracking their parents' income.
Researchers said changes in how parents felt about money were more strongly linked to their children's diets than their actual incomes.
The study said all children's diets deteriorated from age two to five.
It suggested that by the age of five, all children were likely to eat fewer vegetables and to have more sweets and sugary drinks than at the age of two.
The study used data from the Scottish government's Growing Up In Scotland survey.
The researchers said this could be attributed to children becoming more selective in what food they eat as they get older.
When the children were two, less than one in ten (8.1%) drank soft drinks more than once a day. By the age of five, this increased to three in 10 (28.7%).
Similarly, aged two, one in 20 (6.4%) of the children never ate vegetables, but this rate increased nearly five times (27.9%) by the time they turned five.
Children's diets deteriorated when parents believed that they were going through financial hardships.
For parents whose financial situation changed from "feeling comfortable" to "finding it difficult to cope" as their children grew from ages two to five, children ate fewer varieties of fruit and vegetables, and ate crisps and sweets more often.
Among families whose income did not change, children from families with a low income were more likely to have poorer diets to begin with. This group also had diets improve the most from ages two and five.
About two in 10 of these children lowered their sweet consumption compared with only about one in 10 in high-income homes.
Dr Valeria Skafida, report author and Research Fellow at the Centre for Population Health Sciences, said: "Changes in how parents felt about money were more strongly linked to their children's diets than their actual incomes.
"This could be because income is not evenly distributed within the home, or because it is perception of poverty rather than measured poverty that determines food choices."