Dietary patterns in Europe

During the second half of the twentieth century, there have been significant changes in the foods Europeans choose to eat, their eating occasions and how much they spend on food. The development of new production methods in the crop and livestock sectors of agriculture and the advancement of food science have significantly increased the quantity and variety of food available. Progress in food technology has facilitated the production of foods preserved in new ways and the formulation of entirely new or fundamentally modified products. The rising number of meals eaten outside the home; the shift away from traditional dishes prepared from raw ingredients; the tendency towards the consumption of products, which are considered to be 'healthy'; and the interest in new, foreign foods are the results of alterations in the Europeans' perceptions and lifestyle.

Data from the FBSs show that over the last few decades, European eating patterns have been quite labile and subject to various changes. Bearing in mind the caveats of using FBSs for nutritional purposes, data for the 15 member states of the European Union (Fig. 2.1) show a constant increase in the meat supply from 185g/person/day in 1970 to 236/g/p/d in the late 1990s. Cereal availability has been generally static. The trend for the supply of vegetables is unclear, as no


aO /(V At* A<o Ai> oO ¿b -tx 06 <5> cp ¿b ^

  • Cereals
  • Fruits
  • a—Vegetables n Meat

Fig. 2.1 Supply (g/person/day) of 4 food groups (cereals, meat, fruits and vegetables) in the 15 EU member states. Data from the 1970-1997 Food Balance Sheets. (

ziQ a'> A-Q Wb x<y

  • g> ¿r ¿g> >$>
  • Vegetable oils -»-Animal Fat
  1. 2.2 Supply (g/person/day) of vegetable oils and animal fat in the 15 EU member states. Data from the 1970-1997 Food Balance Sheets. (
  2. 2.2 Supply (g/person/day) of vegetable oils and animal fat in the 15 EU member states. Data from the 1970-1997 Food Balance Sheets. (

31.00-45.99 (5) □ 46.00-60.99 (4) ■ 61.00-75.00 (3) ■

Total added lipids (g/prs/day)

  1. 00-45.99 (5) □ 46.00-60.99 (4) ■ 61.00-75.00 (3) ■
  2. 2.3 Availability of total added lipids, in 12 DAFNE countries, around 1990 (g/person/day). (Trichopoulou, 2001)

constant pattern can be identified. Fruit supply, on the other hand, is continuously increasing in the 15 member states since 1978, probably reflecting the documented consumers' preference to increase their fruit rather than vegetable intake, as well as the availability of fruit regardless of season (Naska et al, 2000).

The availability of vegetable oils has always been higher than that of animal fat (Fig. 2.2). It is worth noting, however, that in the 1970s, the supply of both vegetable oils and animal fats was estimated to be approximately 37 g/p/d, but since 1978 a remarkable increase in the vegetable oil availability started, which was not followed by a similar trend in the availability of animal fat.

Between countries data clearly show that the European region is characterised by a divergence in eating behaviours. Results from the DAFNE databank collected around 1990 in 12 European countries reveal considerable variations in food availability of different European populations (Trichopoulou, 2001).

Total added lipids (Fig. 2.3) cover both oils, generally of vegetable origin, and solid or semi-solid fat, either from animal sources, or following industrial processing mainly of vegetable oils (margarine). Total added lipid availability varies between 75 g/p/d in Italy to 32g/p/d in the UK. When the type of lipid is exam-

Fig. 2.4 Availability of added lipids of animal origin, in 12 DAFNE countries, around 1990 (g/person/day). (Trichopoulou, 2001)

Lipids of animal origin (g/prs/day)

0.00-13.99 (7) □ 14.00-27.99 (3) □ 28.00-41.00 (2) □

ined, however, butter and animal fat (Fig. 2.4) account for less than 10% of the total added lipid availability in the Mediterranean countries, while they exceed 30% in the majority of northern and central European countries. Margarine is gradually becoming the lipid of preference in northern Europe, with its availability rising as high as 75% of total added lipids in Norway. In the Mediterranean countries, vegetable oils (Fig. 2.5) represent the lipid of preference; 62% of the vegetable oil availability in Italy and 83% in Greece is olive oil.

The north-south dietary pattern may also be noted when the availability of fresh vegetables (Fig. 2.6) and fruits (Fig. 2.7) is estimated. Two Mediterranean countries, Greece and Spain, lead in the availability of vegetable and fruit availability respectively. The proportion of fresh vegetables consumed varies between countries, from 58% in Germany to 97% in Portugal. Again, fruit is mainly consumed fresh in the Mediterranean countries. In Ireland, availability of fruit barely exceeds 100g/p/d; 79% of the total fruit is purchased fresh.

Figure 2.8 presents the meat (red meat, poultry and meat products) availability by the educational status of the household head. The mean daily availability has been estimated to exceed 180g/p/d in Hungary, Poland and Luxembourg and

Fig. 2.5 Availability of vegetable oils, in 12 DAFNE countries, around 1990 (ml/person/day). (Trichopoulou, 2001)
Fig. 2.6 Availability of fresh vegetables, in 12 DAFNE countries, around 1990 (g/person/day). (Trichopoulou, 2001)

it is around 130g/p/d in Norway, Portugal and Greece. Data presented in Fig. 2.8 further reveals a tendency for lower consumption among the more educated households. It is further worth noting that the Mediterranean countries have become important meat consumers which is not what they were in the past. The availability of different meat types varies among the participating countries. For example, while Greeks seem to prefer beef, Spaniards show a preference towards poultry and processed meat.

Interesting patterns are also revealed when food availability is studied according to the degree of urbanisation of the permanent residence (household locality). A general trend is noticed: the availability of added lipids decreases as one moves from the rural to the urban areas (the DafneSoft, This is also true for the availability of vegetable oils. Norway is an exception; here vegetable oil availability increases in the urban areas, whereas the opposite is true for total added lipids. This pattern could be interpreted in terms of easier access to information on health issues and current nutrition advice among urban populations; People living in the urban areas have a lower overall consumption of lipids, and a higher consumption of vegetable oils.

Fresh Fruits (g/prs/day)

1.00-159.99 (7)0 160.00-239.99 (2)H 240.00-236.00(3)H

Fresh Fruits (g/prs/day)

  1. 00-159.99 (7)0 160.00-239.99 (2)H 240.00-236.00(3)H
  2. 2.7 Availability of fresh fruits, in 12 DAFNE countries, around 1990 (g/person/day).

(Trichopoulou, 2001)

  • Illiterate/Elementary education incomplete
  • Secondary education completed
  • Elementary education completed
  • University/College
  • Secondary education incomplete

Fig. 2.8 Average availability of meat (red meat, poultry and meat products) by educational level of household head, around 1990 (g/person/day). (Trichopoulou, 2001)

(BE = Belgium; GR = Greece; HU = Hungary; IT NO = Norway; PL = Poland; PT = Portugal; ES = Spain)

Italy; LU = Luxembourg;



Data collected in the context of national surveys presented in Table 2.1 have been included in numerous reports and scientific papers, readily accessible in the international literature. Information on food consumption patterns of selected European populations can also be retrieved from publications referring to country-specific cohorts of the EPIC study (Kesse et al, 2001; Schulze et al, 2001; Fraser et al, 2000; Agudo and Pera, 1999). The large volume of nutritional data collected in EPIC is now being analysed and results on the dietary pattern of the EPIC cohort of ten European countries will soon be published. Furthermore, to overcome possible inconsistencies among the national food composition tables, the EPIC investigators are now in the process of developing standardised tables, which will serve for harmonised estimations of nutrient intake.

Information on the dietary patterns of selected European populations may also be retrieved from publications of the Euronut-SENECA study on the nutrition of an elderly population. Examination of the SENECA data reveals considerable variability in dietary intake within and between countries (De Groot et al, 1992). The SENECA data further pinpoints groups of elderly with inappropriate meal frequency, persons not having regular cooked meals, persons eating alone and those with food-budgeting problems (de Groot and van Staveren, 2000).

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