Scores on the dietary guideline index for children and adolescents are associated with nutrient intake and socio-economic position but not adiposity.
Diet quality indices reflect overall dietary patterns better than single nutrients or food groups. The study aims were to develop a measure of adherence with dietary guidelines applicable to child and adolescent populations in Australia and determine the association between index scores and food and nutrient intake, socio-demographic characteristics, and measures of adiposity. Data were analyzed from 4- to 16-y-old participants of the 2007 Australian Childrens Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (n = 3416). The Dietary Guideline Index for Children and Adolescents (DGI-CA) comprises 11 components: 5 core food groups, wholegrain bread, reduced-fat dairy foods, extra foods (nutrient poor and high in fat, salt, and added sugar), healthy fats/oils, water, and diet variety (possible score of 100). The index criteria were age specific. The mean DGI-CA score was low (53.6 ± 0.4), similar between boys and girls, and differed by age; the youngest children scored higher than the oldest children (P < 0.0001). Higher DGI-CA scores were associated with lower energy intake, energy density, total and saturated fat, and sugar intake; higher protein, carbohydrate, fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, and iodine intakes; and a higher polyunsaturated:saturated fat ratio (P < 0.0001). DGI-CA scores were associated with socio-economic characteristics and measures of family circumstance. Weak positive associations were observed between DGI-CA score and BMI or waist circumference Z-scores in the 4- to 10-y and 12- to 16-y age groups only. This index is the first validated index in Australia and one of the few international indices to describe the diet quality of children and adolescents.