Dietary intake and nutritional status of children and adolescents in Europe

Janet Lambert, Carlo Agostoni, Ibrahim Elmadfa, Karin Hulshof, Edburga Krause, Barbara Livingstone, Piotr Socha, Daphne Pannemans, Sonia Samartín

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The objective of this project was to collect and evaluate data on nutrient intake and status across Europe and to ascertain whether any trends could be identified. Surveys of dietary intake and status were collected from across Europe by literature search and personal contact with country experts. Surveys that satisfied a defined set of criteria - published, based on individual intakes, post-1987, adequate information provided to enable its quality to be assessed, small age bands, data for sexes separated above 12 years, sample size over 25 and subjects representative of the population - were selected for further analysis. In a small number of cases, where no other data for a country were available or where status data were given, exceptions were made. Seventy-nine surveys from 23 countries were included, and from them data on energy, protein, fats, carbohydrates, alcohol, vitamins, minerals and trace elements were collected and tabulated. Data on energy, protein, total fat and carbohydrate were given in a large number of surveys, but information was very limited for some micronutrients. No surveys gave information on fluid intake and insufficient gave data on food patterns to be of value to this project. A variety of collection methods were used, there was no consistency in the ages of children surveyed or the age cut-off points, but most surveys gave data for males and females separately at all ages. Just under half of the surveys were nationally representative and most of the remainder were regional. Only a small number of local surveys could be included. Apart from anthropometric measurements, status data were collected in only seven countries. Males had higher energy intakes than females, energy intake increased with age but levelled off in adolescent girls. Intakes of other nutrients generally related to energy intakes. Some north-south geographical trends were noted in fat and carbohydrate intakes, but these were not apparent for other nutrients. Some other trends between countries were noted, but there were also wide variations within countries. A number of validation studies have shown that misreporting is a major problem in dietary surveys of children and adolescents and so all the dietary data collected for this project should be interpreted and evaluated with caution. In addition, dietary studies rely on food composition tables for the conversion of food intake data to estimated nutrient intakes and each country uses a different set of food composition data which differ in definitions, analytical methods, units and modes of expression. This can make comparisons between countries difficult and inaccurate. Methods of measuring food intake are not standardised across Europe and intake data are generally poor, so there are uncertainties over the true nutrient intakes of children and adolescents across Europe. There are insufficient data on status to be able to be able to draw any conclusions about the nutritional quality of the diets of European children and adolescents.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue numberSUPPL. 2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004


  • Adolescents
  • Children
  • Diet surveys
  • Dietary intake
  • Nutritional status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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