Main Article Content



There is strong evidence that good nutrition and regular physical activity reduce the risk of several short-term health problems like anaemia or obesity, while also preventing long-term diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis or cardiovascular diseases. It is important, however, to analyse this relationship under a holistic approach to the concept of health, which goes far beyond disease prevention and comprises well-being. From this perspective, health can be seen as the condition that allows the individual to express his full potential as a human being, considering its interdependent dimensions: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial and environmental. A healthy lifestyle, including not only diet and physical activity, but also sleeping patterns, as well as other factors that have influence on mental and social well-being, is crucial for an optimal child development. The present analysis focuses on children´s diet and physical activity as key determinants of health under a life-course approach. We discuss the early origins of health and disease, along with factors associated with the “building” of diet and physical activity habits that set the foundations for lifelong health.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Author Biography

RAQUEL BEATRIZ LEITÃO, Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo

Adjunct Professor, Ph.D


  1. Aarnio, M., T. Winter, J. Peltonen, U. M. Kujala, and J. Kaprio. 2002. "Stability of leisure-time physical activity during adolescence: a longitudinal study among 16-, 17- and 18-year-old Finnish youth." Scand J Med Sci Sports 12(3):179-85.
  2. Alissa, E. M., and G. A. Ferns. 2017. "Dietary fruits and vegetables and cardiovascular diseases risk." Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 57(9):1950-62.
  3. Bach-Faig, A., E. M. Berry, D. Lairon, J. Reguant, A. Trichopoulou, S. Dernini, F. X. Medina, M. Battino, R. Belahsen, G. Miranda, and L. Serra-Majem. 2011. "Mediterranean diet pyramid today. Science and cultural updates." Public Health Nutr 14(12A):2274-84.
  4. Barisic, A., S. T. Leatherdale, and N. Kreiger. 2011. "Importance of frequency, intensity, time and type (FITT) in physical activity assessment for epidemiological research." Can J Public Health 102(3):174-5.
  5. Barker, D. J. 1995. "The fetal and infant origins of disease." Eur J Clin Invest 25(7):457-63.
  6. Birch, L. L., and A. E. Doub. 2014. "Learning to eat: birth to age 2 y." Am J Clin Nutr 99(3). Retrieved June 25, 2018 (
  7. Burdette, H. L., and R. C. Whitaker. 2005. "Resurrecting free play in young children: Looking beyond fitness and fatness to attention, affiliation, and affect." Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 159(1):46-50.
  8. Caspersen, C. J., K. E. Powell, and G. M. Christenson. 1985. "Physical activity, exercise, and physical fitness: definitions and distinctions for health-related research." Public Health Reports 100(2):126-31.
  9. Castanys-Munoz, E., M. J. Martin, and E. Vazquez. 2016. "Building a Beneficial Microbiome from Birth." Adv Nutr 7(2):323-30.
  10. Cohen, Deborah A., Richard A. Scribner, and Thomas A. Farley. 2000. "A Structural Model of Health Behavior: A Pragmatic Approach to Explain and Influence Health Behaviors at the Population Level." Preventive Medicine 30(2):146-54.
  11. Costa Louzada, M. L., A. P. Martins, D. S. Canella, L. G. Baraldi, R. B. Levy, R. M. Claro, J. C. Moubarac, G. Cannon, and C. A. Monteiro. 2015. "Ultra-processed foods and the nutritional dietary profile in Brazil." Rev Saude Publica 49(38):10.
  12. Craggs, C., K. Corder, E. M. van Sluijs, and S. J. Griffin. 2011. "Determinants of change in physical activity in children and adolescents: a systematic review." Am J Prev Med 40(6):645-58.
  13. Daskalopoulou, C., B. Stubbs, C. Kralj, A. Koukounari, M. Prince, and A. M. Prina. 2017. "Physical activity and healthy ageing: A systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal cohort studies." Ageing Research Reviews 38:6-17.
  14. Davis, Erin C., Mei Wang, and Sharon M. Donovan. 2017. "The role of early life nutrition in the establishment of gastrointestinal microbial composition and function." Gut Microbes 8(2):143-71.
  15. Dernini, S. 2011. "The erosion and the renaissance of the Mediterranean diet: a sustainable cultural resource." Quad Mediterrania IEMED Barc 16:75-82.
  16. Dumith, Samuel C., Denise P. Gigante, Marlos R. Domingues, and I. I. I. Harold W. Kohl. 2011. "Physical activity change during adolescence: a systematic review and a pooled analysis." International Journal of Epidemiology 40(3):685-98.
  17. Economos, Christina D., Daniel P. Hatfield, Abby C. King, Guadalupe X. Ayala, and Mary Ann Pentz. 2015. "Food and Physical Activity Environments: An Energy Balance Approach for Research and Practice." American Journal of Preventive Medicine 48(5):620-29.
  18. Eime, R. M., J. A. Young, J. T. Harvey, M. J. Charity, and W. R. Payne. 2013. "A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for children and adolescents: informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport." Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 10(98):1479-5868.
  19. Elliott, C. D. 2011. "Sweet and salty: nutritional content and analysis of baby and toddler foods." J Public Health 33(1):63-70.
  20. Ellison, P T. 2010. "Fetal programming and fetal psychology." Infant and Child Development 19(1):6-20.
  21. Felfe, Christina, Michael Lechner, and Andreas Steinmayr. 2016. "Sports and Child Development." PLoS One 11(5). Retrieved June 25, 2018 (
  22. Fildes, A., C. H. van Jaarsveld, C. H. Llewellyn, A. Fisher, L. Cooke, and J. Wardle. 2014. "Nature and nurture in children's food preferences." Am J Clin Nutr 99(4):911-7.
  23. Ginsburg, Kenneth R. 2007. "The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds." Pediatrics 119(1):182-91.
  24. Greally, J. M. 2018. "A user's guide to the ambiguous word 'epigenetics'." Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 19(4):207-08.
  25. Heard, Edith, and Robert A. Martienssen. 2014. "Transgenerational Epigenetic Inheritance: myths and mechanisms." Cell 157(1):95-109.
  26. Heikkila, K., Y. Kelly, M. J. Renfrew, A. Sacker, and M. A. Quigley. 2014. "Breastfeeding and educational achievement at age 5." Matern Child Nutr 10(1):92-101.
  27. Higgs, Suzanne, and Jason Thomas. 2016. "Social influences on eating." Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 9. Retrieved June 22, 2018 (
  28. Hopkins, M., and J. E. Blundell. 2016. "Energy balance, body composition, sedentariness and appetite regulation: pathways to obesity." Clin Sci 130(18):1615-28.
  29. Horta, B. L., C. Loret de Mola, and C. G. Victora. 2015. "Breastfeeding and intelligence: a systematic review and meta-analysis." Acta Paediatr 104(467):14-9.
  30. Janssen, Ian, and Allana G. LeBlanc. 2010. "Systematic review of the health benefits of physical activity and fitness in school-aged children and youth." International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 7(1). Retrieved June 25, 2018 (
  31. Jornayvaz, François R., Peter Vollenweider, Murielle Bochud, Vincent Mooser, Gérard Waeber, and Pedro Marques-Vidal. 2016. "Low birth weight leads to obesity, diabetes and increased leptin levels in adults: the CoLaus study." Cardiovascular Diabetology 15:73. Retrieved June 20, 2018 (
  32. Jose, K. A., L. Blizzard, T. Dwyer, C. McKercher, and A. J. Venn. 2011. "Childhood and adolescent predictors of leisure time physical activity during the transition from adolescence to adulthood: a population based cohort study." Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 8(54):1479-5868.
  33. Kang, M., J. E. Yoo, K. Kim, S. Choi, and S. M. Park. 2018. "Associations between birth weight, obesity, fat mass and lean mass in Korean adolescents: the Fifth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey." BMJ Open 8(2). Retrieved June 21, 2018 (
  34. Kearney, John. 2010. "Food consumption trends and drivers." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 365(1554):2793-807.
  35. Koletzko, B., R. von Kries, R. C. Monasterolo, J. E. Subias, S. Scaglioni, M. Giovannini, J. Beyer, H. Demmelmair, B. Anton, D. Gruszfeld, A. Dobrzanska, A. Sengier, J. P. Langhendries, M. F. Cachera, and V. Grote. 2009. "Infant feeding and later obesity risk." Adv Exp Med Biol 646:15-29.
  36. LaFontaine, Tom. 2008. "Physical Activity: The Epidemic of Obesity and Overweight Among Youth: Trends, Consequences, and Interventions." American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine 2(1):30-36.
  37. Limongi, F., M. Noale, A. Gesmundo, G. Crepaldi, and S. Maggi. 2017. "Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet and All-Cause Mortality Risk in an Elderly Italian Population: Data from the ILSA Study." J Nutr Health Aging 21(5):505-13.
  38. Maalouf, J., M. E. Cogswell, M. Bates, K. Yuan, K. S. Scanlon, P. Pehrsson, J. P. Gunn, and R. K. Merritt. 2017. "Sodium, sugar, and fat content of complementary infant and toddler foods sold in the United States, 2015." Am J Clin Nutr 105(6):1443-52.
  39. Makela, S., S. Aaltonen, T. Korhonen, R. J. Rose, and J. Kaprio. 2017. "Diversity of leisure-time sport activities in adolescence as a predictor of leisure-time physical activity in adulthood." Scand J Med Sci Sports 27(12):1902-12.
  40. Malina, Robert M. 2001. "Adherence to Physical Activity From Childhood to Adulthood: A Perspective From Tracking Studies." Quest 53(3):346-55.
  41. Mameli, C., S. Mazzantini, and G. V. Zuccotti. 2016. "Nutrition in the First 1000 Days: The Origin of Childhood Obesity." Int J Environ Res Public Health 13(9). Retrieved June 20, 2018 (
  42. Mielgo-Ayuso, Juan, Raquel Aparicio-Ugarriza, Adrian Castillo, Emma Ruiz, Jose M. Avila, Javier Aranceta-Bartrina, Angel Gil, Rosa M. Ortega, Lluis Serra-Majem, Gregorio Varela-Moreiras, and Marcela González-Gross. 2017. "Sedentary behavior among Spanish children and adolescents: findings from the ANIBES study." BMC Public Health 17:94. Retrieved June 18, 2018 (
  43. Miqueleiz, Estrella, Lourdes Lostao, and Enrique Regidor. 2016. "Stabilisation of the trend in prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity in Spain: 2001–11." European Journal of Public Health 26(6):960-63.
  44. Mook-Kanamori, D. O., B. Durmus, U. Sovio, A. Hofman, H. Raat, E. A. Steegers, M. R. Jarvelin, and V. W. Jaddoe. 2011. "Fetal and infant growth and the risk of obesity during early childhood: the Generation R Study." Eur J Endocrinol 165(4):623-30.
  45. Moreno, M. A. 2016. "Supporting child play." JAMA Pediatrics 170(2):184-84.
  46. Movassagh, Elham Z., Adam D. G. Baxter-Jones, Saija Kontulainen, Susan J. Whiting, and Hassanali Vatanparast. 2017. "Tracking Dietary Patterns over 20 Years from Childhood through Adolescence into Young Adulthood: The Saskatchewan Pediatric Bone Mineral Accrual Study." Nutrients 9(9). Retrieved June 25, 2018 (
  47. Nandi, Arindam, Randall Lutter, and Ramanan Laxminarayan. 2017. "Breastfeeding Duration and Adolescent Educational Outcomes: Longitudinal Evidence From India." Food and Nutrition Bulletin 38(4):528-41.
  48. Ng, S. W., and B. M. Popkin. 2012. "Time use and physical activity: a shift away from movement across the globe." Obes Rev 13(8):659-80.
  49. Oddy, Wendy H., Jianghong Li, Andrew J. O. Whitehouse, Stephen R. Zubrick, and Eva Malacova. 2011. "Breastfeeding Duration and Academic Achievement at 10 Years." Pediatrics 127(1). Retrieved June 25, 2018 (
  50. Olsen, Anja, Rikke Egeberg, Jytte Halkjær, Jane Christensen, Kim Overvad, and Anne Tjønneland. 2011. "Healthy Aspects of the Nordic Diet Are Related to Lower Total Mortality." The Journal of Nutrition 141(4):639-44.
  51. Padmanabhan, Vasantha, Rodolfo C. Cardoso, and Muraly Puttabyatappa. 2016. "Developmental Programming, a Pathway to Disease." Endocrinology 157(4):1328-40.
  52. Pereira-da-Silva, Luís, Carla Rêgo, and Angelo Pietrobelli. 2016. "The Diet of Preschool Children in the Mediterranean Countries of the European Union: A Systematic Review." International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 13(6). Retrieved June 28, 2018 (
  53. Perry, B., and Y. Wang. 2012. "Appetite regulation and weight control: the role of gut hormones." Nutrition & Diabetes 2:e26. Retrieved June 27, 2018 (
  54. Reimers, C. D., G. Knapp, and A. K. Reimers. 2012. "Does Physical Activity Increase Life Expectancy? A Review of the Literature." Journal of Aging Research 2012:9. Retrieved June 20, 2018 (
  55. Reynolds, Clare M., Justin M. O’Sullivan, Stephanie A. Segovia, and Mark H. Vickers. 2018. "Chapter 10 - Early-Life Nutrition, Epigenetics, and Altered Energy Balance Later in Life A2 - Moskalev, Alexey." Pp. 213-27 in Epigenetics of Aging and Longevity, edited by Alexander M. Vaiserman. Boston: Academic Press.
  56. Rhee, K. E., S. Phelan, and J. McCaffery. 2012. "Early determinants of obesity: genetic, epigenetic, and in utero influences." Int J Pediatr 463850(10). Retrieved June 17, 2018 (
  57. Rodriguez-Casado, A. 2016. "The Health Potential of Fruits and Vegetables Phytochemicals: Notable Examples." Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 56(7):1097-107.
  58. Rokholm, B., J. L. Baker, and T. I. A. Sørensen. 2010. "The levelling off of the obesity epidemic since the year 1999 – a review of evidence and perspectives." Obesity Reviews 11(12):835-46.
  59. Sallis, J. F., J. J. Prochaska, and W. C. Taylor. 2000. "A review of correlates of physical activity of children and adolescents." Med Sci Sports Exerc 32(5):963-75.
  60. Saunders, Travis J., Jean-Philippe Chaput, and Mark S. Tremblay. 2014. "Sedentary Behaviour as an Emerging Risk Factor for Cardiometabolic Diseases in Children and Youth." Canadian Journal of Diabetes 38(1):53-61.
  61. Schellong, K., S. Schulz, T. Harder, and A. Plagemann. 2012. "Birth weight and long-term overweight risk: systematic review and a meta-analysis including 643,902 persons from 66 studies and 26 countries globally." PLoS One 7(10). Retrieved June 27, 2018 (
  62. Slavin, Joanne L., and Beate Lloyd. 2012. "Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables." Advances in Nutrition 3(4):506-16.
  63. Smith, Andrea D., Alison Fildes, Lucy Cooke, Moritz Herle, Nicholas Shakeshaft, Robert Plomin, and Clare Llewellyn. 2016. "Genetic and environmental influences on food preferences in adolescence." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 104(2):446-53.
  64. Starling, A. P., J. T. Brinton, D. H. Glueck, A. L. Shapiro, C. S. Harrod, A. M. Lynch, A. M. Siega-Riz, and D. Dabelea. 2015. "Associations of maternal BMI and gestational weight gain with neonatal adiposity in the Healthy Start study." Am J Clin Nutr 101(2):302-9.
  65. Stewart, R. A., J. Benatar, and R. Maddison. 2015. "Living longer by sitting less and moving more." Curr Opin Cardiol 30(5):551-7.
  66. Strong, W. B., R. M. Malina, C. J. Blimkie, S. R. Daniels, R. K. Dishman, B. Gutin, A. C. Hergenroeder, A. Must, P. A. Nixon, J. M. Pivarnik, T. Rowland, S. Trost, and F. Trudeau. 2005. "Evidence based physical activity for school-age youth." J Pediatr 146(6):732-7.
  67. Tada, N., C. Maruyama, S. Koba, H. Tanaka, S. Birou, T. Teramoto, and J. Sasaki. 2011. "Japanese dietary lifestyle and cardiovascular disease." J Atheroscler Thromb 18(9):723-34.
  68. Tammelin, T., S. Nayha, A. P. Hills, and M. R. Jarvelin. 2003. "Adolescent participation in sports and adult physical activity." Am J Prev Med 24(1):22-8.
  69. Tanaka, Masaru, and Jiro Nakayama. 2017. "Development of the gut microbiota in infancy and its impact on health in later life." Allergology International 66(4):515-22.
  70. Telford, Rohan M., Richard D. Telford, Lisa S. Olive, Thomas Cochrane, and Rachel Davey. 2016. "Why Are Girls Less Physically Active than Boys? Findings from the LOOK Longitudinal Study." PLoS One 11(3). Retrieved June 25, 2018 (
  71. Toscano, Marco, Roberta De Grandi, Enzo Grossi, and Lorenzo Drago. 2017. "Role of the Human Breast Milk-Associated Microbiota on the Newborns’ Immune System: A Mini Review." Frontiers in Microbiology 8:2100. Retrieved June 24, 2018 (
  72. Ulla, Hoppu, Knaapila Antti, Laaksonen Oskar, and Sandell Mari. 2016. "9 - Genetic basis of flavor sensitivity and food preferences A2 - Etiévant, Patrick." Pp. 203-27 in Flavor, edited by Elisabeth Guichard, Christian Salles, and Andrée Voilley: Woodhead Publishing.
  73. Verger, Eric O., Marlene Perignon, Jalila El Ati, Nicole Darmon, Marie-Claude Dop, Sophie Drogué, Sandrine Dury, Cédric Gaillard, Carole Sinfort, and Marie-Josèphe Amiot. 2018. "A “Fork-to-Farm” Multi-Scale Approach to Promote Sustainable Food Systems for Nutrition and Health: A Perspective for the Mediterranean Region." Frontiers in Nutrition 5:30. Retrieved June 20, 2018 (
  74. Vernarelli, J. A., D. C. Mitchell, T. J. Hartman, and B. J. Rolls. 2011. "Dietary energy density is associated with body weight status and vegetable intake in U.S. children." J Nutr 141(12):2204-10.
  75. Vickers, M. H. 2014. "Early life nutrition, epigenetics and programming of later life disease." Nutrients 6(6):2165-78.
  76. Victora, Cesar G., Bernardo Lessa Horta, Christian Loret de Mola, Luciana Quevedo, Ricardo Tavares Pinheiro, Denise P. Gigante, Helen Gonçalves, and Fernando C. Barros. 2015. "Association between breastfeeding and intelligence, educational attainment, and income at 30 years of age: a prospective birth cohort study from Brazil." The Lancet Global Health 3(4):199-205.
  77. Wang, Guoying, Sara Johnson, Yiwei Gong, Sarah Polk, Sara Divall, Sally Radovick, Margaret Moon, David Paige, Xiumei Hong, Deanna Caruso, Zhu Chen, Eric Mallow, Sheila O. Walker, Guangyun Mao, Colleen Pearson, Mei-Cheng Wang, Barry Zuckerman, Tina L. Cheng, and Xiaobin Wang. 2016a. "Weight Gain in Infancy and Overweight or Obesity in Childhood across the Gestational Spectrum: a Prospective Birth Cohort Study." Scientific Reports 6:29867. Retrieved June 22, 2018 (
  78. Wang, Ping‐Yu, Jun‐Chao Fang, Zong‐Hua Gao, Can Zhang, and Shu‐Yang Xie. 2016b. "Higher intake of fruits, vegetables or their fiber reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes: A meta‐analysis." Journal of Diabetes Investigation 7(1):56-69.
  79. Warburton, D. E. R., and S. S. D. Bredin. 2017. "Health benefits of physical activity: a systematic review of current systematic reviews." Curr Opin Cardiol 32(5):541-56.
  80. World Health Organization 2018a. "Downward trend in overweight and obesity among Portuguese school children." Retrieved June 9, 2018 (
  81. World Health Organization 2018b. "Reducing free sugars intake in children and adults." Retrieved June 20, 2018 (
  82. Yamagishi, Kazumasa, Hiroyasu Iso, Chigusa Date, Mitsuru Fukui, Kenji Wakai, Shogo Kikuchi, Yutaka Inaba, Naohito Tanabe, Akiko Tamakoshi, and Group Japan Collaborative Cohort Study for Evaluation of Cancer Risk Study. 2008. "Fish, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and mortality from cardiovascular diseases in a nationwide community-based cohort of Japanese men and women the JACC (Japan Collaborative Cohort Study for Evaluation of Cancer Risk) Study." Journal of the American College of Cardiology 52(12):988-96.