The road to better health for adolescents

August 6, 2013
The road to better health for adolescents
Credit: Shutterstock

From anorexia and asthma to cataracts, diabetes and obesity, illnesses and conditions that develop in middle age very often originate in childhood and adolescence. Evidence suggests that if adolescents had healthier lifestyles, they would enjoy a much better quality of life as adults.

Getting to the root of the problem, the EU-funded project HELENA ('Healthy lifestyle in Europe by nutrition in adolescence') investigated what young adults are eating across the continent, as well as their attitudes to .

The team identified what it takes to promote healthy eating among and proposed new approaches for achieving this noble goal.

Adolescence is an important period in terms of . Parents make most food decisions until youngsters approach their teenage years. Then, youngsters gain access to pocket money and school canteens. And old habits die hard - some 80 percent of obese adolescents are likely to remain so in adulthood.

Using advanced computer-based dietary assessment tools, the team pinpointed similarities and differences in food selection and meal patterns between the 3 000 young people interviewed, identifying common barriers, misconceptions and issues.

It may not be a surprise to hear that snacking was a major problem across all countries studied, while general attitudes such as 'healthy food tastes bad' or 'healthy food doesn't fill you up' were also documented.

Analysis across 10 countries also looked at food intake, eating attitudes, , vitamin status, metabolism, , , fitness and . Going further, the HELENA team also studied genetic make-up, investigating interactions between genes and nutrients, as well as between genes and the environment.

Allowing consumers to lead the way, the project developed new food products, such as a low-fat hamburger, boasting beneficial nutritional characteristics that appeal to adolescents. Overall the new foods were well received by the target group and helped shed light on how to improve diets for people aged 12-18.

The team also tested healthy alternative diets on adolescents. One led to a significant reduction in the desire to eat and an increased the sensation of fullness.

Schools, health services, hospitals, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), supermarkets and sports clubs be interested in two innovative web-based tools developed within the project - a 'food-o-meter ' and an 'activ-o-meter '. Each is able to provide individually tailored advice on eating habits and physical activity for adolescents.

Altogether, the project has provided a useful set of tools and data for use by any organisation or body active in the health sector. It has also provided the first multi-country overview of European teenagers ' attitudes to food and health.

HELENA brought together a pan-European team from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK between 2005 and 2008. It received almost EUR 5 million in EU funding was coordinated by the University of Zaragoza in Spain.

Explore further: Eating eggs is not linked to high cholesterol in adolescents

More information: www.helenastudy.com

Related Stories

Eating eggs is not linked to high cholesterol in adolescents

July 19, 2013
Although in the late 20th century it was maintained that eating more than two eggs a week could increase cholesterol, in recent years experts have begun to refute this myth. Now, a new study has found that eating more eggs ...

Study reveals link between sleep deprivation in teens and poor dietary choices

June 21, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Well-rested teenagers tend to make more healthful food choices than their sleep-deprived peers, according to a study led by Lauren Hale, PhD, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University ...

Taste rules for kids and healthy food choices

July 16, 2013
Sweet and salty flavors, repeat exposure, serving size and parental behavior are the key drivers in children's food choices, according to a July 15 panel discussion at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual ...

Parents with heavy TV viewing more likely to feed children junk food

June 6, 2013
If your preschooler thinks a cheeseburger is healthy, you may want to reconsider how you watch TV. A recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan found commercial TV viewing, as opposed to commercial-free digitally ...

Grape consumption associated with healthier eating patterns in US children and adults

August 2, 2013
In a new observational study published in the Journal of Food Science, researchers looked at the association of grape consumption, in the non-alcoholic forms most commonly consumed – fresh grapes, raisins and 100% grape ...

Parenting and home environment influence children's exercise and eating habits

June 18, 2013
Kids whose moms encourage them to exercise and eat well, and model those healthy behaviors themselves, are more likely to be active and healthy eaters, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.

Recommended for you

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.