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Food Quality and Safety in Europe



It is widely recognised that teenagers across Europe often resist adopting healthy lifestyles and healthy eating habits. This phenomenon jeopardises the future health and life expectancy of this new generation.

In the population at large, chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, allergies and cancer remain the most common causes of morbidity and mortality. Many of these chronic diseases are known to be diet-related.

Other well-documented risk factors include obesity, sedentary lifestyle, elevated blood pressure, and smoking. Yet despite these risk factors receiving wide public attention, significant changes to people's behaviour have not been achieved.

Unhealthy habits often have their origin in childhood and adolescence. If young people adopted healthier lifestyles, there would be good prospects for long-term and sustainable improvements in the overall quality of life and health in Europe.


In order to establish the policies and environments that will support positive behaviour, we first need much more information about how teenagers behave today. The three-year EU-supported HELENA project (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) aims to tackle the problem by supplying verified data on a whole range of adolescent habits, genetic makeup and nutrition. A team of experts from different scientific fields across Europe is conducting a crosssectional survey of a large sample of 13 to 16-year-old boys and girls in ten European cities that represent different genetic backgrounds, eating patterns and socio economic status. For the first time, a standard methodology is being used across the whole survey to make the results comparable. Information is being collected on young people's knowledge about nutrition and attitudes to eating, in relation to the foods they prefer and those that they actually eat. Their physical fitness and physical activity patterns will be assessed. These data will be correlated with scientific measurements of body composition, plasma lipids and metabolic profiles, vitamin status and immune function. Their genotype will be determined so that gene-nutrient and gene-environment interactions can be analysed. The results will be put into European databases from which regional patterns can then be extracted.

We know that an environment with a poor diet and inactivity is the main risk factor for obesity and many chronic diseases. This new data will help quantify the relationship between food intake and various metabolic factors that can promote ill health. In relation to diabetes, these include glucose homeostasis and insulin resistance. Risk factors for eating disorders, dislipaemia and obesity will also be measured. This will help to identify individuals most at risk and give them a better chance of prevention.


Analysis of HELENA results will indicate adolescent food preferences in various types of environments. They can be related to foods that they need but may not get. The project will develop three novel and healthy foods designed to appeal to this age group. To make them appealing to the target consumers, a marketing strategy will be devised and tested.

An education programme on healthy eating and lifestyle will also be developed, aimed at young people. Together all these measures will put the understanding of adolescent nutrition on a sound scientific footing, and help to reduce risk factors for non-communicable disease initiated at this age. HELENA should make a major contribution towards improving the health of all European citizens.

List of Partners

  • Universidad de Zaragoza (Spain)
  • Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spain)
  • Université de Lille 2 (France)
  • Research Institute of Child Nutrition Dortmund (Germany)
  • Harokopio University (Greece)
  • Institut Pasteur de Lille (France)
  • Karolinska Institutet (Sweden)
  • Asociación de Investigación de la Industria Agroalimentaria (Spain)
  • Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association (UK)
  • Pécsi Tudományegyetem (Hungary)
  • University of Crete (Greece)
  • Institut für Ernährungs- und Lebensmittel- wissenschaften- Humanernährung, Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms Universität, Bonn (Germany)
  • University of Granada (Spain)
  • SIK - Institutet för livsmedel och bioteknik (Sweden)
  • Meurice Recherche & Developpement asbl (Belgium)
  • Campden & Chorleywood Food Development Institute, (Hungary)
  • Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca per gli Alimenti e la Nutrizione (Italy)
  • University of Napoli "Federico II", Department of Food Science (Italy)
  • Ghent University (Belgium)
  • University of Vienna (Austria)
  • Productos Aditivos (Spain)
  • Carnicas Serrano (Spain)
  • Cederroth International AB (Sweden)
  • Cerealia R&D (Sweden)
  • European Food Information Council (Belgium)
Full title:
Healthy lifestyle in Europe by nutrition in adolescence
Contract n°:
Project co-ordinator:
Luis A. Moreno, Universidad de Zaragoza,
EC Scientific Officer:
Rosanna d'Amario, rosanna.d'
EU contribution:
€ 5M
Specific Targeted Research Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top