OBJECTIVE - Most prospective studies in adult populations show an inverse association between consumption of fruits and vegetables and the risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants. The objective was to determine whether nutrient intakes and plasma concentrations of antioxidants of adolescents are similar to those of their parents or grandparents as a way of assessing whether dietary habits of parents are passed on to their adolescent children.
METHODS - Parents or grandparents (n = 159) aged 29-77 y were selected from the participants of the myocardial case-control study in Costa Rica. One adolescent child or grandchild (12-20 y) was identified for each parent or grandparent. Nutrient intakes and plasma antioxidant concentrations were assessed using a validated food-frequency questionnaire and by high performance liquid chromatography, respectively.
RESULTS - As compared to adults, adolescents consumed greater quantities of fruit, dairy products, red meat, carbonated drinks and polyunsaturated fat, but lower quantities of fiber and micronutrients (carotenoids, vitamins A and B6, folate, potassium, magnesium and zinc). Plasma concentrations of all carotenoids, except for lycopene, were lower in adolescents than in adults (p < 0.05). Intakes of lycopene (r = 0.16, p = 0.05), alpha-tocopherol (r = 0.19, p = 0.03) and gamma-tocopherol (r = 0.21, p = 0.01) in adolescents were correlated with those of adults. Plasma concentrations of lycopene (r = 0.20, p = 0.02), alpha-tocopherol (r = 0.18, p = 0.03) and gamma-tocopherol (r = 0.28, p = 0.001) in adolescents were also correlated with those of adults. These data may suggest that adolescents may acquire habitual consumption of foods rich in micronutrients from adults.
CONCLUSION - As a proportion of energy, diets of Costa Rican adolescents contain less micronutrients than those of their adult relatives. Parents should be aware of this trend and its association with poor health status.