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Food Quality and Safety in Europe



IDEFICS is contributing to improving health conditions for children by understanding their food habits and looking for solutions to problems such as weight and obesity disorders. The project is examining the connection between diet and environment, and proposes new interventional approaches for reducing the negative impacts of imbalanced food habits on children.


In order to bring a halt to the epidemic of diet and lifestyle-induced diseases and ill health, the IDEFICS study is introducing evidence-based methodologies, such as cross-sectional surveys. These are producing a good assessment of the prevalence of disorders, such as overweight in European children. Associated disorders, also assessed during the surveys, include obesity, scoliosis, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

A key component of the project is the conducting of epidemiological studies that take into account certain biochemical and genetic factors. These are being carried out into the effects of diet, food composition and lifestyle on the development of those conditions that are impacting on children. Investigations are also being conducted to determine how sensory perception and environmental factors influence food choices among consumers. This study is complemented by additional research into children's physical activity.

As a result of all this work, IDEFICS is developing a standardised data collection methodology and database that can be used for health research in the future. Such research will include gaining an understanding of the metabolic pathways of the conditions being considered.


The cross-sectional surveys, conducted in 9 European countries, in which self-reported and biological baseline data of children of preschool and school age will be collected, will find out about key risk factors for overweight and obesity. Additionally, the surveys will provide baseline data collected in a comparable and standardised manner on the prevalence of the disorders in question. As a further result of the study, IDEFICS will for the first time deliver reference data for physiological parameters like height, weight, blood pressure, etc. in children between the ages of 2 and 10.

By identifying the causes of diet-related disorders, the consortium is able to develop, implement and evaluate specific interventional approaches with the aim of reducing the prevalence of diet-related disorders among children. IDEFICS produces a standard set of intervention modules, adjustable to suit the characteristics of each country's dietary habits, physical activity and leisure pursuits in which parents and children, as well as teachers, nurses and local authorities all participate. If the modules prove successful, they can be spread to a broader population of European youngsters.

The IDEFICS team is also developing a core set of guidelines on nutrition, behaviour and ethics, directed towards scientists, policymakers, the health insurance industry and consumers with the aim of promoting healthy food. The consortium is drawing upon the experience gained by its wide range of participants including research institutes, universities and the small-to-medium sized enterprise sector. This invaluable knowledge has been taken from the fields of nutrition, health and biology and from the monitoring of physical activity, in order to carry out the proposed research activities.

IDEFICS aims at raising public awareness, changing attitudes and improving the uptake and acceptance of preventive measures. Moreover, the project is providing a better understanding of the mechanisms required for preventing the development of diseases and disorders. This in turn will lead to improved dietary and lifestyle strategies for children, and provide the necessary advice for those who take care of them. In addition, awareness has been raised among local authorities and policymakers responsible for the issue of overweight children, and proper guidelines have been provided for promoting prevention strategies. In the long term, this will result in fitter and happier youngsters and reduce the likelihood of poor health in later life.

List of Partners

  • University of Bremen, Bremen Institute for Prevention Research and Social Medicine (Germany)
  • Ghent University, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Public Health/ Department of Movement and Sport Sciences (Belgium)
  • Research & Education Foundation of Child Health (Cyprus)
  • University Joseph Fourier, Laboratory of Nutrition, Ageing and Cardiovascular Diseases (France)
  • Verein zur Förderung des Technologietransfers an der Hochschule Bremerhaven Sensory Laboratory (Germany)
  • University of Glasgow, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences (UK)
  • Lancaster University, Institute for Environment, Philosophy and Public Policy (UK)
  • University of Pécs, Medical Faculty, Department of Paediatrics (Hungary)
  • Universitŕ Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Centre for High Technology Research and Education in Biomedical Sciences (Italy)
  • National Research Council, Institute for Food Sciences, Unit of Epidemiology & Population Genetics (Italy)
  • National Cancer Institute, Epidemiology Unit (Italy)
  • University of Milan, Department of Pharmacological Sciences (Italy)
  • University of Zaragoza (Spain)
  • University Illes Balears, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Nutrition and Biotechnology (Spain)
  • Göteborg University, Queen Silvia Children's Hospital, Department of Paediatrics (Sweden)
  • European Food Information Council (Belgium)
  • Laboratoriumsmedizin Dortmund, Eberhard & Partner (Germany)
  • BioTel (UK)
  • Pécs TV Communication (Hungary)
  • Agorŕ Med (Italy)
  • National Institute for Health Development (Estonia)
  • Gockel Design (Germany)
  • Copenhagen Business School (Denmark)
Full title:
Identification and prevention of dietary- and lifestyleinduced health effects in children and infants
Contract n°:
Project co-ordinator:
Wolfgang Ahrens, University of Bremen, Bremen Institute for Prevention Research, Social Medicine and Epidemiology,
EC Scientific Officer:
Ana Nieto Nuez,
Rosanna d'Amario, rosanna.d'
EU contribution:
€ 13M
Integrated Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top