Public Health Nutrition

Nutrition and health

Healthy behaviours and abdominal adiposity in adolescents from southern Italy

Paola Iaccarino Idelsona1, Luca Scalfia2, Nicola Vainoa3, Sara Mobiliaa1, Concetta Montagnesea2, Adriana Franzesea1 and Giuliana Valerioa3 c1

a1 Dipartimento di Pediatria, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Napoli, Italia

a2 Dipartimento di Scienza degli Alimenti, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Napoli, Italia

a3 Dipartimento di Studi delle Istituzioni e dei Sistemi Territoriali, Università degli Studi di Napoli Parthenope, Via Medina 40, 80133 Napoli, Italia


Objective The present study aimed to evaluate the prevalence of meeting health recommendations on diet and physical activity (having breakfast, eating fruit and vegetables, consumption of milk/yoghurt, performing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, limiting television watching) and to assess junk snack food consumption in adolescents from southern Italy. The association between healthy behaviours and abdominal adiposity was also examined.

Design In a cross-sectional protocol, anthropometric data were measured by trained operators while other data were collected through a structured interview.

Setting Three high schools in Naples, Italy.

Subjects A sample of 478 students, aged 14–17 years, was studied.

Results The proportion of adolescents who met each of the health recommendations varied: 55·4 % had breakfast on ≥6 d/week; 2·9 % ate ≥5 servings of fruit and vegetables/d; 1·9 % had ≥3 servings of milk/yoghurt daily; 13·6 % performed moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for ≥60 min/d; and 46·3 % watched television for <2 h/d. More than 65 % of adolescents consumed ≥1 serving of junk snack foods/d. Only 5 % fulfilled at least three recommendations. Healthy habits tended to correlate with each other. As the number of health recommendations met decreased, the percentage of adolescents with high abdominal adiposity (waist-to-height ratio ≥0·5) increased. The trend was not significant when the proportion of overweight/obese adolescents was considered. Logistic regression analysis indicated that male gender and watching television for ≥2 h/d were independently associated with a higher waist-to-height ratio.

Conclusions Most adolescents failed to meet the five health recommendations considered. Male gender and excessive television watching were associated with abdominal adiposity.

(Received April 19 2012)

(Revised December 07 2012)

(Accepted December 11 2012)

(Online publication January 28 2013)


  • Adiposity;
  • Adolescence;
  • Lifestyle;
  • Nutrition


c1 Corresponding author: Email