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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2000 Mar;54 Suppl 1:S29-35.

Dietary habits and nutritional status in adolescents over Europe--Southern Europe.

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Nutrition Research Centre, National Institute of Health, Lisbon, Portugal.


A literature review of the data on dietary habits, food consumption and nutritional status of adolescents of Southern European countries was performed. Snacking seems to be less frequent and the frequency of eating out in fast food restaurants is much lower than in the USA and in some Nordic Countries. A nutrient pattern rich in total fat (around 40% of the energy intake), in saturated fatty acids (around 13% of the energy intake) and mainly in monounsaturated fatty acids (17-19% of the energy intake), due to a high consumption of olive oil, is often observed in Spanish and Greek adolescents. In Portugal, the percentage of the energy provided by fat is relatively low (31-33% of the energy intake) and in Italy the situation is intermediate regarding total fat, but the intake of olive oil is also high. This means that two important characteristics of the Mediterranean diet, a low consumption of saturated fatty acids and a high intake of carbohydrates have been lost. Regarding micronutrients, there seems to exist a risk of deficiency, particularly for calcium, iron and zinc. The prevalence of overweight/obesity is high, around 15-25%, being higher than in the Nordic countries but lower than in the USA. There is no clear indication of trends, due to the different methods and criteria used to define obesity. The serum cholesterol levels of adolescents has increased during the last two decades in Spain, Greece and Italy, and nowadays are similar to those in the USA, but still lower than in the Nordic countries. In Portuguese adolescents, the cholesterol levels seem to be lower, but the situation is not well known.

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