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Eur J Clin Nutr. 1997 Jun;51 Suppl 2:S30-5.

Perceived need to alter eating habits among representative samples of adults from all member states of the European Union.

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Institute of European Food Studies, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.



To examine the perceived need to alter eating habits among nationally-representative samples from each member state of the European Union (EU).


A cross-sectional study in which quota-controlled, nationally-representative samples of approximately 1000 adults from each country completed a face-to-face interview-assisted questionnaire.


The survey was conducted between October 1995 and February 1996 in the 15 member states of the European Union.


14,331 subjects (aged 15 y upwards) completed the questionnaire. Data were weighted by population size for each country and by sex, age and regional distribution within each member state.


71% of EU subjects agreed with the statement 'I do not need to make changes to the food I eat, as it is already healthy enough'. There was wide variation between the member states ranging from 47% in Finland to 87% in Italy indicating agreement. Overall there was little difference between the sexes except in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece and Ireland, but the proportions of subjects agreeing with the statement generally increased with advancing age and decreased with higher levels of education. The effects of demographics were not consistent across member states. A total of 49% of EU subjects agreed with the statement 'I usually do not think of the nutritional aspects of the food I eat'. Significantly more females than males disagreed with the statement in all countries except Portugal. In all member states there were widespread beliefs that people in general should decrease their consumption of savoury snacks and increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables.


The results of this study demonstrate that dietary advice may not be perceived as personally relevant among EU subjects. In addition important target groups for the promotion of healthy eating have been identified for example, males or subjects with low levels of education. Because of the variation in attitudes a single pan-EU healthy eating programme is unlikely to be effective for all countries or for different demographic groups.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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