The literature on determinants of dietary behavior among youth is extensive and unwieldy. We conducted an umbrella review or review-of-reviews to present a comprehensive overview of the current knowledge.
Therefore, we included systematic reviews identified in four databases (i.e. PubMed, PsycINFO, The Cochrane Library and Web of Science) that summarized determinants of observable child and adolescent dietary behaviors. Data extraction included a judgment of the importance of determinants, strength of evidence and evaluation of the methodological quality of the eligible reviews.
In total, 17 reviews were considered eligible. Whereas social-cognitive determinants were addressed most intensively towards the end of the 20th century, environmental determinants (particularly social and physical environmental) have been studied most extensively during the past decade, thereby representing a paradigm shift.With regard to environmental determinants, mixed findings were reported. Sedentary behavior and intention were found to be significant determinants of a wide range of dietary behaviors in most reviews with limited suggestive evidence due to the cross-sectional study designs. Other potential determinants such as automaticity, self-regulation and subjective norm have been studied in relatively few studies, but results are promising.
The multitude of studies conducted on potential determinants of dietary behavior provides quite convincing evidence of the importance of several determinants (i.e. quite some variables were significantly related to dietary behavior). However, because of the often used weak research designs in the studies covered in the available reviews, the evidence for true determinants is suggestive at best.