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Determinants of eating behaviour in European children, adolescents and their parents

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EU-wide study for better food and lifestyle choices among European families

An EU initiative worked to reduce the burden of nutrition-related diseases through a study of the interplay and impact of the main drivers of eating behaviour and food choice.

Digital Economy
Society
Fundamental Research
Health

In 2005, the European Commission launched the EU platform for action on diet, physical activity and health to improve overall nutrition and help tackle diseases. The EU-funded I.FAMILY project supported this initiative by providing relevant and targeted scientific data on which the platform can base concrete actions that lead to measurable effects. Project partners examined children’s development, and looked for ways to improve young people’s health and tackle problems such as obesity. The project involved a unique cohort of children aged 2-10 years in 8 Member States. They studied the biological, behavioural, social and environmental factors that influence diet and health outcomes over time as the children transitioned into adolescence. The I.FAMILY team used data gathered from an EU-wide study into the diets and lifestyles of over 16 000 children, together with their parents and siblings, as a basis for its international scientific survey. It examined 9 617 children now between the ages of 7 and 17, 7 105 of whom had participated before. Siblings and parents were also involved in the study. Participants completed questionnaires, gave interviews on relationships and health, undertook psychological tests and physical examinations, provided biological samples and measured their activity. Research revealed several key findings. Overweight/obesity rates vary greatly between European regions, ranging from around 40 % to under 10 %. Girls are more likely to be overweight/obese. Children from disadvantaged families are more often overweight or obese than children from more advantaged groups. This social divide increases as children get older. The energy-density of European children’s diet is too high and increases with age. Unhealthy diets are far more common in children from poorer and less educated families. Outcomes also suggest that there is a link between shorter sleep duration and higher weight, particularly in primary school children. By identifying the determinants of food and lifestyle options, I.FAMILY will empower adults and children to make better choices that support lifelong health.

Keywords

Food, lifestyle, nutrition, eating behaviour, food choice, I.FAMILY

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2 March 2021