Nutrition Journal (2020-10-01)

Diet quality indices and their associations with health-related outcomes in children and adolescents: an updated systematic review

  • Phoebe Dalwood,
  • Skye Marshall,
  • Tracy L. Burrows,
  • Ashleigh McIntosh,
  • Clare E. Collins

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 19, no. 1
pp. 1 – 43


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Abstract Background To describe a-priori diet quality indices used in children and adolescents, appraise the validity and reliability of these indices, and synthesise evidence on the relationship between diet quality and physical and mental health, and growth-related outcomes. Methods Five electronic databases were searched until January 2019. An a-priori diet quality index was included if it applied a scoring structure to rate child or adolescent (aged 0–18-years) dietary intakes relative to dietary or nutrient guidelines. Diagnostic accuracy studies and prospective cohort studies reporting health outcomes were appraised using the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Quality Criteria Checklist. Results From 15,577 records screened, 128 unique paediatric diet quality indices were identified from 33 countries. Half of the indices’ scores rated both food and nutrient intakes (n = 65 indices). Some indices were age specific: infant (< 24-months; n = 8 indices), child (2–12-years; n = 16), adolescent (13–18 years; n = 8), and child/adolescent (n = 14). Thirty-seven indices evaluated for validity and/or reliability. Eleven of the 15 indices which investigated associations with prospective health outcomes reported significant results, such as improved IQ, quality of life, blood pressure, body composition, and prevalence of metabolic syndrome. Conclusions Research utilising diet quality indices in paediatric populations is rapidly expanding internationally. However, few indices have been evaluated for validity, reliability, or association with health outcomes. Further research is needed to determine the validity, reliability, and association with health of frequently utilised diet quality indices to ensure data generated by an index is useful, applicable, and relevant. Registration PROSPERO number: CRD42018107630 .