Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


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

Project acronym: I.Family

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

Research area: Consumers

Contract No: 266044

EU contribution: €9 000 000

Start date: March 2012

Duration: 60 months

Status: on-going

The project I.Family is helping identify the reasons why young people in Europe eat the way they do and how this influences lifelong health. Nutrition-related diseases caused a loss of over 56 million years of healthy life among European citizens in 2000. I.Family is making a significant contribution to reducing this burden by studying the interplay and impact of the main drivers of dietary behaviour and food choice.

Many factors come in to play in this research. The time young people spend with their families and the influence the family has on them are challenged by modern, independent lifestyles: where processed foods, drinks and snacks are readily available. Moreover, marketing and peer pressures are accompanied by screen-based distractions and urban environments that reduce opportunities for physical activity. All these factors play their part in the increase of food-related-diseases – under-pinned by acquired taste preferences and genetic predisposition.

The focus of I.Family is on the family environment, socio-behavioural and genetic factors. Groups of people with contrasting dietary profiles are under investigation: looking at measures of brain activity, the relation of genes to food choice, the biological and genetic basis for taste thresholds, sleep patterns, sedentary time, physical activity and the impact of their local built environment.

The project is taking advantage of the unique opportunity to follow-up the large children's cohort investigated in the IDEFICS FP6 project on child obesity. This opportunity not only provides added value by maintaining the existing cohort but also, exceptionally, allows the assessment of the dynamic nature of causal factors over time and during transition into adolescence.

I.Family will also link health outcomes like body composition and cardio-metabolic markers to diet and interacting factors to determine their prognostic value. In this way, I.Family provides strength of methodology, breadth of coverage and depth of investigation right across the ecological model. Guided by research on ethical implications, I.Family will use its results to derive effective communication strategies that empower European consumers to induce behaviour changes, supported by novel web-based, interactive personalised feedback on dietary behaviour. By building on existing success, I.Family expects to take research on dietary behaviour to the next level in a short time frame.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ahrens,

Organisation: University of Bremen (UNIHB),