Global F&V Newsletter

Food consumption and lifestyle trends


The adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors is programmed from an early age and extends into adolescence and young adulthood. Despite the importance of modifi able healthy dietary and lifestyle practices in mitigating noncommunicable diseases, there exists a limited understanding of population-level changes and current trends in food consumption and lifestyle behaviors in these populations. Understanding such trends is critical to inform public health guidelines on effective health promotion approaches across the lifespan.

Infancy and early childhood are critical periods for the development of taste preferences and dietary patterns. Duffy et al. examined trends in food consumption patterns in 2002, 2008, and 2016 among infants. Within age groups, the authors found a signifi cantly
positive increase in breast milk consumption and a significant decrease in the consumption of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, 100% fruit juice, and infant cereal. In addition, they observed a signifi cant stagnant or decreased consumption in whole grains and stagnant consumption of vegetables.

Similar to infancy and early childhood, several behaviors are further developed and strengthened during adolescence. Yet, adolescents often undergo
a number of physical, behavioral, and psychosocial changes that may challenge the prioritization of a complex set of healthy behaviors. Marques et al. developed a composite measure of a healthy lifestyle to examine associations with sociodemographic factors in adolescents. The authors found that only 1.9% and 4.2% of adolescents achieved, respectively, all or none of the fi ve behaviors of interest (≥60 minutes of physical activity per day,
daily consumption of fruit and vegetables, <2 hours of screen time per day, and abstinence from alcohol and from tobacco).

Following adolescence, transitional changes in young
adulthood may lead to shifts in already established lifestyle behaviors, which emphasizes the importance of continually and actively promoting a healthy lifestyle during this period, including vegetable consumption. The recent review of Rodrigues et al. identifi ed levels and predictors of consumption of vegetables among young adults during their college/ university years. Most college students did not adhere to World Health Organization guidelines for vegetable consumption, with approximately only a third achieving the recommendation. Predictors for higher intake of vegetables included being female, among a number of other factors.

The frequent poor dietary and lifestyle behaviors across childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood are among the key factors contributing to a weight gain trajectory and increased risk of noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease, cancers, and type 2 diabetes. Future public policy efforts may focus on targeting vulnerable subgroups that may be most at risk for a lack of adherence and tailoring health promotion strategies for these subgroups and diverse lifestyle areas.