Public Health Nutrition

Monitoring and surveillance

Nutrient intake of European adolescents: results of the HELENA (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) Study

Katharina Diethelma1 c1, Inge Huybrechtsa2, Luis Morenoa3, Stefaan De Henauwa2a4, Yannis Maniosa5, Laurent Beghina6a7, Marcela González-Grossa8, Cinzia Le Donnea9, Magdalena Cuenca-Garcíaa10, Manuel J Castilloa10, Kurt Widhalma11, Emma Pattersona12a13 and Mathilde Kerstinga1

a1 Research Institute of Child Nutrition, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University Bonn, Heinstueck 11, 44225 Dortmund, Germany

a2 Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

a3 Escuela Universitaria de Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad de Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain

a4 Department of Health Sciences, Vesalius Hogeschool Gent, Ghent, Belgium

a5 Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece

a6 Centre d'Investigation Clinique de Lille, Lille, France

a7 Unité Inserm U995 & Université Lille Nord de France, Lille, France

a8 ImFINE Research Group, Department of Health and Human Performance, Faculty of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences – INEF, Technical University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain

a9 National Research Institute on Food and Nutrition, Rome, Italy

a10 Department of Medical Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Granada, Granada, Spain

a11 Academic Institute for Clinical Nutrition, Vienna, Austria

a12 Unit for Preventive Nutrition, Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

a13 Division of Social Medicine, Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden


Objective An adequate nutritional intake in childhood and adolescence is crucial for growth and the prevention of youth and adult obesity and nutrition-related morbidities. Improving nutrient intake in children and adolescents is of public health importance. The purpose of the present study was to describe and evaluate the nutrient intake in a European sample using the D-A-CH nutrient intake recommendations and the Nutritional Quality Index (NQI).

Design The HELENA (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) Study is a cross-sectional study, the main objective of which is to obtain comparable data on a variety of nutritional and health-related parameters in adolescents aged 12·5–17·5 years.

Setting Eight cities in Europe.

Subjects The initial sample consisted of 3528 European adolescents. Among these, 1590 adolescents (54 % female) had sufficient and plausible dietary data on energy and nutrient intakes from two 24 h recalls using the HELENA-DIAT software.

Results The intakes of most macronutrients, vitamins and minerals were in line with the D-A-CH recommendations. While the intakes of SFA and salt were too high, the intake of PUFA was too low. Furthermore, the intakes of vitamin D, folate, iodine and F were less than about 55 % of the recommendations. The median NQI was about 71 (of a maximum of 100).

Conclusions The intakes of most nutrients were adequate. However, further studies using suitable criteria to assess nutrient status are needed. Public health initiatives should educate children and adolescents regarding balanced food choices.

(Received August 13 2012)

(Revised January 09 2013)

(Accepted January 22 2013)

(Online publication March 08 2013)


  • Nutrient intake;
  • Europe;
  • Adolescents;
  • HELENA Study


c1 Corresponding author: Email