School children

Less than half of teenagers in England eat fruit and vegetables every day, according to recently published research by the World Health Organisation.

The WHOreport, which examined adolescent health behaviours in Europe from 2002 to 2014, found that in 2014 only 39 per cent of people in England aged 11, 13 and 15 ate fruit on a daily basis. In vegetables this figure was slightly higher at 41 per cent.

Daily fruit consumption in the UK matches the European average, with only 38 per cent of adolescents from across 40 countries and regions in Europe reporting to do so. In vegetables it was even lower at 36 per cent.

Among girls, England ranked twenty-first in the list of countries with the highest daily consumption, while in boys it ranked twelfth.

Armenia has the highest percentage of teenagers eating fruit every day (57 per cent), followed by Albania (51 per cent) and French-speaking Belgium (49 per cent).

The lowest levels of consumption were recorded in Sweden (27 per cent), Latvia (26 per cent) and Finland (24 per cent).

Europe-wide fresh produce intake was significantly lower in boys (34 per cent) than in girls (42 per cent) and it decreased with age from 44 per cent at the age of 15 to 33 per cent at the age of 11.

The report found that as young people get older, they eat less fruit and vegetables – particularly fruit – suggesting that when they gain greater independence over their eating behaviour, they are less likely to make healthy choices.

Over the twelve-year research period there were some improvements in European dietary behaviours, with an overall decline in the consumption of sweets and fizzy drinks over the past 15 years, but changes in fruit and vegetable consumption were minimal.

The study also highlighted persisting inequalities in obesity, and an increase in the disorder, across the continent, particularly in eastern European countries.

Four per cent of European adolescents are obese, which is over 1.4 million people, the report found. Young males and those from lower income families are most at risk of becoming obese, while girls reported healthier eating habits.

According to a 2011 WHO report on non-communicable diseases, 1.7 million deaths worldwide are attributable to low fruit and vegetable consumption.