Urbanization and the pattern of children’s nutrition

To address the scarce evidence of a link between childhood eating habits and urbanization, researchers from several European countries, including researchers from our Center, analyzed a cross-section of urban-rural differences in the frequency of fruit, vegetable and soft drink consumption in 123,100 children, ages 6-9 from 19 countries. Participating in the fourth round (2015-2017) of the WHO European Obesity Monitoring Initiative (COSI), parents filled out questionnaires on their children’s eating patterns. The analysis revealed wide variability among countries and within macro-regions for all nutritional indicators; the percentage of children attending rural schools ranged from 3% in Turkey to 70% in Turkmenistan. The prevalence of less healthy eating habits was unexpectedly high – 30 to 90% of children do not eat a couple of fruits or vegetables once a day, and up to 45% consume soft drinks more than 3 days a week. In about a third of countries, children attending rural schools were more likely to be deficient in fruits or vegetables on a daily basis or consuming soft drinks more often than children attending schools in urban areas. This is another in a series of studies that suggest the creation of new strategies and policies necessary to improve access to healthy food and promote healthy behaviors in children. The study was published in the latest issue of the journal Obesity Reviews.