European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 57, Issue 5, pp 1845–1854 | Cite as

High protein intake along with paternal part-time employment is associated with higher body fat mass among girls from South China

  • Ming-zhe Yang
  • Hong-mei Xue
  • Jay Pan
  • Lars Libuda
  • Rebecca Muckelbauer
  • Min Yang
  • Liming Quan
  • Guo Cheng
Original Contribution



Protein intake has been suggested to be associated with body composition among western children. Our aim was to determine whether protein intake is associated with body composition among Chinese children and to investigate whether parental socioeconomic status modifies these associations.


Cross-sectional data were collected from the baseline survey of an ongoing population-based prospective open cohort study conducted in 2013. In this survey, 2039 children in South China were recruited using cluster random sampling. Information of 1704 children (47% girls), aged 7–12 years from three primary schools (42 classes), on diet and anthropometry was included finally. Their daily protein intake was obtained by 3-day 24-h dietary recalls. Skinfold thickness, body height, and weight were measured to calculate percent body fat (%BF), fat mass index (FMI), and fat-free mass index (FFMI). Parental characteristics were collected by questionnaires.


Among girls, protein intake was positively associated with %BF and FMI [estimate (SE) for %BF: 0.007 (0.003), p = 0.04; for FMI: 0.092 (0.002), p = 0.03], adjusted for pubertal stage, breast-feeding, maternal overweight, carbohydrate intake, energy intake, and physical activity level. Furthermore, there was interaction between paternal occupation and the relations of dietary protein with %BF and FMI (p for interaction ≤ 0.04). None of the associations between protein intake and %BF, FMI, or FFMI was found among boys.


Our data indicate that school-aged girls, but not boys, living in South China with higher dietary protein intake might have higher body fat mass, which could be modified by paternal occupation.


Dietary protein Body composition Paternal occupation Children 



The participation of all children and their families is gratefully acknowledged. We also thank the staff of the Department of nutrition, food safety, and toxicology for carrying out the dietary recalls and anthropometric measurements.

Author contributions

GC conceived the project and designed the study. GC and MY performed the statistical analyses, and MY and HX provided dietary data. GC and MY wrote the manuscript. JP and MY provided critical input on data analyses. LL, RM, and LQ provided critical input on data analyses and data interpretation. All authors read and approved the final manuscript and reviewed the manuscript for important intellectual content.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was supported by a research grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81673158), a research Grant from the National 1000 Young Talents Program, and Sichuan Outstanding Young Scholars Foundation (2014JQ0005).

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Supplementary material

394_2017_1468_MOESM1_ESM.docx (21 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 22 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ming-zhe Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hong-mei Xue
    • 1
  • Jay Pan
    • 3
  • Lars Libuda
    • 4
    • 5
  • Rebecca Muckelbauer
    • 6
  • Min Yang
    • 7
  • Liming Quan
    • 8
  • Guo Cheng
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Nutrition, Food Safety and ToxicologyWest China School of Public Health, Sichuan UniversityChengduPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Nutrition and Health Research Center, BY-HEALTH CO., LTDGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Department of Epidemiology and StatisticWest China School of Public Health, Sichuan UniversityChengduPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryUniversity Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-EssenEssenGermany
  5. 5.Department of PediatricsResearch Institute for the Prevention of Allergies and Respiratory Diseases in Childhood, Marien-Hospital WeselWeselGermany
  6. 6.Berlin School of Public Health, Charité–UniversitätsmedizinBerlinGermany
  7. 7.West China Research Center for Rural Health DevelopmentHuaxi Medical Center, Sichuan UniversityChengduPeople’s Republic of China
  8. 8.Office of Scientific Research ManagementWest China School of Public Health, Sichuan UniversityChengduPeople’s Republic of China

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