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Lights, camera, action! Europe’s teens get active in the healthy lifestyle debate

Brussels, 28 September 2009 – from the 6 million students in over 30,000 secondary schools across 16 European countries, 38 finalists congregated last week in Rome to find out the winners of the 2009 edition of FOOD4U.  
Surprisingly creative in revealing a reality often underestimated” according to the jury, the video “Bill Kill” from the Escola Profissional do Instituto Nun'Alvres, Portugal won the FOOD 4U Award 2009 - Trophy of the President of the Republic of Italy.

An initiative of the Italian Ministry for Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Policies, FOOD4U is an international competition for young film makers who are encouraged to motivate their peers about healthy food and lifestyle choices by creating a 30-45 second video clip.  See http://www.food-4u.it/ for all the finalist videos and winners.
New tools for old messages
Life-long habits find their roots during the crucial period of adolescence and the number of overweight or obese children in the EU is rising by about 400 000 each year.  Amongst European adolescents, approximately 27% of males and 20% of females are either overweight or obese.  It is critical therefore, to establish new ways of reaching today’s teenagers with important health and nutrition messages.
But can it make a difference?
As a collaborative partner in this initiative, the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) wanted to determine levels of nutrition knowledge amongst Europe’s teens.  Using a survey based on a questionnaire from the EU-funded project HELENA (http://www.helenastudy.com/), EUFIC gathered a total of 343 questionnaires from participating students in 9 countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain).  The split between males and females was 41% and 59% respectively.
FOOD4U participants’ nutrition knowledge
Encouragingly, the results show a relatively good nutrition knowledge among adolescents. Most students had good knowledge of nutrients and food groups.  The majority of the adolescents were aware of experts’ recommendations to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, to not exceed a teaspoon of salt/day, and the benefits of fibre.
Some students were uncertain about less well known nutrients such as saturated fat and iodine.  Knowledge about calorie content of foods and terminology also showed room for improvement.  Importantly, many students struggled to judge the balance between energy in and energy out for a specific food and activity.
Results similar to recent data obtained for adults
The results showed some similarities with data for adults obtained in the EUFIC pan-European study on consumers’ nutrition knowledge (click here).  Few respondents knew they should eat lots of starchy foods.  At the same time, awareness of expert recommendations on fruit and vegetables was high.

Evropská rada pro informace o potravinách (European Food Information Council, EUFIC) je nezisková organizace, která poskytuje vědecky podložené informace o bezpečnosti a jakosti potravin, zdraví a výživě médiím, výživovým odborníkům, lékařům, pedagogům a lidem ovlivňujícím veřejné mínění tak, aby byly pro spotřebitele srozumitelné.

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