Stockholm, Sweden, 31 August: The University of Athens Medical School has conducted a comprehensive study to evaluate the relationship between diet quality, levels of physical activity and key lifestyle characteristics amongst a group of 12-17 year old schoolchildren. The objective was to determine the most appropriate health actions to reduce the risks of long-term cardiovascular disease. The study concludes that almost half of Greek schoolchildren have a low quality diet, while just 6 percent adhere to the traditional Mediterranean diet along with high levels of physical activity.
Led by Assistant Professor Costas Tsioufis of the university’s Cardiology Department, the Lyceum Leontio Albuminuria Study (or 3L study) was based around a group of almost 500 schoolchildren (60 percent male, 40 percent female) aged between 12 and 17 years. The study focused on three aspects:
Dietary habits were assessed through a semi-quantitative Food Frequency Questionnaire. The students were asked to recall the diet which they had followed for the past year. Based on the answers, an index was developed that estimates the adherence level to the Mediterranean diet. The results show that only 6 percent were classified as high adherers to Mediterranean diet, while around 42 percent were classified as having very low diet quality (score <4).
Physical activity was measured using a short version of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ), to give an index of weekly energy expenditure using frequency (sessions per week), duration (in minutes per session) and intensity of activity. For each participant, data collected with the IPAQ form was reported as median MET-minutes using standard formulas. Low physical activity was reported by 7 percent of boys and girls, while the remainder participated in moderate or vigorous activity. The time allocated to sports-related activities during the school week was five hours, and an additional three hours were devoted to other activities.
Lifestyle characteristics were captured by questionnaire, and show an average of 2 hours per day spent watching TV or playing video games. Subjects with an average or higher index rating for diet quality spent significantly less time watching TV and more time studying compared to those with poor diet quality index rating. Interestingly, no differences were observed between the two groups with respect to blood pressure levels, body mass index and waist to hip ratio.
Doctor Tsiachris, one of the primary study investigators, concludes, “Our research suggests that almost half of Greek schoolchildren aged between 12 and 17 years appear to have a very low diet quality. Yet, those that adhere to the high quality Mediterranean diet seem to be associated with greater physical activity behaviour rather than a sedentary lifestyle. The above relationship suggests that focused health actions may promote, in parallel, an optimal food consumption behaviour and an intense physical activity pattern.”