Food Pattern Analysis Over Time

Unhealthful Eating Trajectories Predict Obesity

Drastic diet changes can yield dramatic changes to weight. More realistically, though, people change their diets gradually—both in healthful and unhealthful directions.

This study looked at 2,437 individuals who completed a food frequency questionnaire at three times over a 10-year period. The questionnaire measured consumption of food items that were then classified into food pattern trajectories labeled as healthful, unhealthful, mixed direction and no change. Food pattern sequences were used to predict weight status at the final testing point.

The seven food consumption patterns and the probability that someone would remain in the same pattern at all testing points are:

  1. meat and soda (52.3%)
  2. sweets (30.6%)
  3. alcohol and snacks (61.1%)
  4. light eating (39.3%)
  5. caffeine-avoidant (43.4%)
  6. offsetting (44.5%)
  7. healthier (59.5%)

Some 66.2 percent of people changed their food patterns over the 10 years, while 33.8 percent remained in the same pattern. More people changed in a healthful direction (23.4%) than an unhealthful one (17.5%).

Overweight people were 1.79 times more likely to have an unhealthful trajectory than normal-weight individuals; obese were 2.4 times more likely.

The author concludes that an incremental change toward healthier eating—say from light to caffeine-avoidant—has “measurable returns to weight loss.”