BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: To address behaviours associated with childhood obesity, certain target values are recommended that should be met to improve children's health. In the IDEFICS (Identification and prevention of Dietary- and lifestyle-induced health Effects in Children and infantS) study such lifestyle recommendations were conveyed as six key messages. Here, we investigate the adherence of European children to these messages.
METHODS: The IDEFICS intervention was based on the intervention mapping approach with the following six targets: increase water consumption (to replace sugar-containing beverages), increase fruit/vegetable consumption, reduce daily screen time, increase daily physical activity, improve the quality of family life and ensure adequate sleep duration. Internationally recommended target values were applied to determine the prevalence of children meeting these targets.
RESULTS: In a cohort of 18,745 children participating in the IDEFICS baseline survey or newly recruited during follow-up, data on the above lifestyle behaviours were collected for a varying number of 8302 to 17,212 children. Information on all six behaviours was available for 5140 children. Although 52.5% of the cohort was classified in the highest category of water consumption, only 8.8% met the target of an intake of fruits/vegetables five times a day. The prevalence of children adhering to the recommendation regarding total screen time-below 1 h for pre-school children and 2 h for school children-was 51.1%. The recommended amount of at least 60 min of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day was fulfilled by 15.2%. Family life of the child measured by various indicators was considered as satisfactory in 22.8%. Nocturnal sleep duration of 11 (10) hours or more in pre-school (school) children was achieved by 37.9%. In general, children in northern countries and younger children showed better adherence to the recommendations. Only 1.1% of the children adhered to at least five of these recommendations.
CONCLUSIONS: Current adherence of children to lifestyle recommendations to prevent childhood obesity is low where observed differences with respect to country, age and gender call for targeted intervention.
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