The general objective of this EURONUT EC Concerted Action is to study the interrelationship of diet in health and disease as Europe offers large variations in both dietary patterns and in morbidity and mortality patterns.
A study on nutrition and the elderly in Europe (Euronut-SENECA) involved 2600 elederly residents of 19 towns in 12 countries. The survey included a questionnaire, personal interviews, anthropometric measurements and biochemical assays. Investigators recorded alarmingly high body mass index (BMI) values in some towns (Poland, Spain, central Italy, the Greek mainland) and a significant prevalence of low values in others (Norway, Hungary, Crete). Serum albumin, haemoglobin, and haematocrit levels were generally satisfactory at all centres. A geographical pattern emerged for blood lipid levels (lower in Mediterranean countries) but not for the vitamin B6 levels was widespread and biochemical deficiencies in vitamin B 12 or alpha-tocopherol were found at a few centres. Good functioning and self perceived global health tended to be better in men than in women, but the gender difference was smaller for theprevalence of chronic disease and use of medicines. Most of the elderly were still active in a job, domestic work, sports, or hobbies.
Since 1982 a European Community Concerted Action on Nutrition and Health has been pursued among European countries. This action, named EURONUT, was initiated by the Commission of the European Communities and was supervised by the EC/DG XII Committees on Epidemiology (COMAC-EPID) and Bio-Medical and Health Research.
Prompted by the greying of the European Society, and the necessity to maintain good health and performance at older age with nutrition as an important contributing factor, the Project Management Group of EURONUT in 1986 decided to embark on a study of nutritional problems and needs that older people experience. In 1987 and 1988 several meetings were held to develop a common protocol and to discuss the design of the study, selection of participants, data collection and the standardization of procedures. All details have been described in one of the EURONUT reports. In 1988 the European-wide multicenter study, named EURONUT-SENECA, was started to explore cross-cultural differences in nutritional issues, life-style factors, health and performance of European elderly people. At present, EURONUT-SENECA provides baseline data necessary for the appraisal of the nutrition and health situation of elderly people in Europe. It also provides a solid base for longitudinal study in which specific hypotheses of healthy aging can be tested.
This EURONUT EC Concerted Action has given specific attention to the following four concerted action sub-programmes:
A) Nutrition and the Elderly in Europe: EURONUT-SENECA;
B) Surveillance of Dietary Habits with regard to Cardiovascular Diseases: MONICA-WHO-EURONUT;
C) Nutrition, Body Fat Distribution and Health Risks: The European Fat Distribution Study - EURONUT;
D) The Growth and Development of Children: EURONUT-Growth Study.