N° 82 | October 2013

Adolescents who spent more time in sedentary activities had a lower consumption of F&V. The HELENA study

Increasing levels of physical inactivity and sedentarism in young population groups have been observed1. Sedentary time is often defined as the time spent on specific sedentary behaviours such as television (TV) viewing, computer or internet use. The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recommends parents to limit total media time exposure to no more than 1-2 hours/day2. Moreover, sedentary behaviors can influence dietary intake depending on the type of activity. For example, increased TV viewing has been associated with unhealthy eating patterns, like higher consumption of sweets, savory snacks or soft drinks, and less F&V.

There are a lack of studies examining the relationship between a comprehensive list of screen time behaviors and the consumption of F&V. Therefore, we aimed to examine the association between time spent on different sedentary behaviors and consumption of specified food and beverages among European adolescents.

European adolescents aged 12.5 to 17.5 years

The HELENA (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) Cross Sectional Study (CSS) is a European Union funded project on lifestyle and nutrition. The sample included 2,202 adolescents (45.5% males) between 12.5 to 17.5 years old, from 10 European cities (Athens, Heraklion, Dortmund, Ghent, Lille, Pecs, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna, and Zaragoza). Adolescents self-reported the frequency of specified sedentary behaviors for weekdays and weekends. Behaviors assessed included: TV viewing, playing computer games and video games, internet surfing for recreational reasons and for study purposes, and studying (nonschool time). Dietary consumption was assessed using the self-administered, computerized 24 Hour recalls and the adolescents completed the 24HRR twice during school time. F&V consumption were selected, out of the total 43 food groups. Differences in food consumption according to time spent in each sedentary behavior were analyzed, and logistic regression analyses were performed to obtain ratios of food group consumption by specified sedentary behaviors.

Adolescents who spent more time in sedentary activities had a lower consumption of F&V

Adolescents’ F&V consumption not differed by gender. In general, girls had higher F&V consumption than boys. Adolescents (boys and girls) spending more time > 4 hours/day watching TV during weekdays and weekends, and playing computer games or using the internet for recreational reasons during weekdays, were less likely to consume fruit than those who spent < 2 hours/day. The frequency of consuming fruit decreased with increased time watching TV, playing computer or video games or using the internet for recreational reasons. Also, the frequency of consuming fruit increased with increasing study time during weekdays in both sexes.

Overall, we found that those adolescents who spent more time in sedentary activities, mainly TV viewing, playing computer games and using the internet for leisure time, had a lower consumption of fruit, and were less likely to consume them. Analyses conducted for boys and girls separately showed that the associations were consistent between sexes. These trends could possibly be due to the displacement of fruit by other frequently advertised foods. Screen viewing time activities, in particular TV viewing, have been associated with unhealthy eating practices3 and may partly explain the relationship between sedentary behaviors and obesity4. It is possible that low levels of physical activity, combined with parental attitudes towards TV viewing, playing computer or video games, use of the internet for studying and the availability of internet in the home might have an influence on the amount of time adolescents spend in each sedentary behavior, and their food consumption.

Regular PA and healthy eating should be promoted among adolescents

Excessive TV viewing, computer and internet use (>2hours/day) during adolescence was associated with lower consumption of fruit. It can only be speculated that these adolescents could be at a greater risk of overweight and obesity and poorer nutritional status. From a public health perspective, efforts to promote healthy foods and to replace adolescents’ sedentary time with alternative activities would appear to offer a way forward in the short term, including the role of the parents in creating healthy environments.

BASED ON: Barbosa Filho VC, Campos W, Bozza R, Lopes AS. The prevalence and correlates of behavioral risk factors for cardiovascular health among Southern Brazil adolescents: a cross sectional study. BMC Pediatr. 2012;12:130.

  1. Eaton DK, et al. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2009. MMWR Surveill Summ 2010, 59(5):1–142.
  2. Pearson N, et al. Patterns of adolescent physical activity and dietary behaviours. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2009, 6:45.
  3. Sallis JF, et al: A review of correlates of physical activity of children and adolescents. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000, 32(5):963–975.
  4. Pearson N, Biddle SJH: Sedentary behavior and dietary intake in children, adolescents, and adults: A systematic review. Am J Prev Med 2011, 41(2):178–188.
Return See next article