Skip to main content
Log in

Assessment of diet, physical activity and biological, social and environmental factors in a multi-centre European project on diet- and lifestyle-related disorders in children (IDEFICS)

  • Original Article
  • Published:
Journal of Public Health Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Obesity is a major public health problem in developed countries. We present a European project, called Identification and Prevention of Dietary and Lifestyle-induced Health Effects in Children and Infants (IDEFICS), that focuses on diet- and lifestyle-related diseases in children. This paper outlines methodological aspects and means of quality control in IDEFICS. IDEFICS will use a multicentre survey design of a population-based cohort of about 17,000 2- to 10-year-old children in nine European countries (Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Sweden). The project will investigate the impact of dietary factors such as food intake and food preferences, lifestyle factors such as physical activity, psychosocial factors and genetic factors on the development of obesity and other selected diet- and lifestyle-related disorders. An intervention study will be set up in pre-school and primary school settings in eight of the survey centres. Standardised survey instruments will be designed during the first phase of the project and applied in the surveys by all centres. Standard operation procedures (SOPs) will be developed, as well as a plan for training the personnel involved in the surveys. These activities will be accompanied by a quality control strategy that will encompass the evaluation of process and result quality throughout the project. IDEFICS will develop comparable Europe-wide health indicators and instruments for data collection among young children. Establishment of a new European cohort within IDEFICS will provide a unique opportunity to document the development of the obesity epidemic in the current generation of young Europeans and investigate the impact of primary prevention in European children populations.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Agostoni C, Galli C, Riva E, Colombo C, Giovannini M, Marangoni F (2005) Reduced docosahexaenoic acid synthesis may contribute to growth restriction in infants born to smoking mothers. J Pediatr 147:854–856

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ahrens W, Bammann K, de Henauw S, Halford J, Palou A, Pigeot I, Siani A, Sjöström M, on behalf of the European Consortium of the IDEFICS Project (2006) Understanding and preventing childhood obesity and related disorders-IDEFICS: A European multilevel epidemiological approach. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 16:302–308

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Austin SB, Melly SJ, Sanchez BN, Patel A, Buka S, Gortmaker SL (2005) Clustering of fast-food restaurants around schools: a novel application of spatial statistics to the study of food environments. Am J Public Health 95:1575–1581

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ball K, Crawford D (2005) The role of socio-cultural factors in the obesity epidemic. In: Crawford D, Jeffrey RW (eds) Obesity Prevention and Public Health. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 37–53

    Google Scholar 

  • Bingham SA, Day NE, Luben R, Ferrari P, Slimani N, Norat T, Clavel-Chapelon F, Kesse E, Nieters A, Boeing H, Tjonneland A, Overvad K, Martinez C, Dorronsoro M, Gonzalez CA, Key TJ, Trichopoulou A, Naska A, Vineis P, Tumino R, Krogh V, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, Peeters PH, Berglund G, Hallmans G, Lund E, Skeie G, Kaaks R, Riboli E; European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (2003a). Dietary fibre in food and protection against colorectal cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC): an observational study. Lancet 361:1496–1501

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bingham SA, Luben R, Welch A, Wareham N, Khaw KT, Day NE (2003b). Are imprecise methods obscuring a relation between fat and breast cancer? Lancet 362:212–214

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bundred P, Kitchiner D, Buchan I (2001) Prevalence of overweight and obese children between 1989 and 1998: population based series of cross sectional studies. BMJ 322:1–4

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carlson CS, Eberle MA, Rieder MJ, Yi Q, Kruglyak L, Nickerson DA (2004) Selecting a maximally informative set of single-nucleotide polymorphisms for association analysis using linkage disequilibrium. Am J Hum Genet 74:106–120

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Cole T, Bellizzi MC, Flegal KM, Dietz WH (2000) Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: international survey. BMJ 320:1–6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Doak CM, Visscher TL, Renders CM, Seidell JC (2006) The prevention of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents: a review of interventions and programmes. Obes Rev 7(1):111–136

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Fields DA, Goran MI (2000) Body composition techniques and the four-compartment model in children. J Appl Physiol 89:613–620

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Harrison E, Rose D (2006) The European Socio–economic Classification (ESeC) Draft User Guide. University of Essex, Colchester

  • Kristal AR, Peters U, Potter JD (2005) Is it time to abandon the food frequency questionnaire? Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 14: 2826–2828

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Livingstone S, Helsper E (2004) Advertising “unhealthy” foods to children: Understanding promotion on children. Report to Ofcom, London

  • Lockner DW, Heyward VH, Baumgartner RN, Jenkins KA (2000) Comparison of air-displacement plethysmography, hydrodensitometry, and dual X-ray absorptiometry for assessing body composition of children 10 to 18 years of age. Ann N Y Acad Sci 904:72–78

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Marangoni F, Colombo C, Galli C (2004) A method for the direct evaluation of the fatty acid status in a drop of blood from a fingertip in humans: applicability to nutritional and epidemiological studies. Anal Biochem 326:267–272

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Marangoni F, Colombo C, Martiello A, Poli A, Paoletti R, Galli C (2006) Levels of the n-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid in addition to those of alpha linolenic acid are significantly raised in blood lipids by the intake of four walnuts a day in humans. Nutr Metab Card Dis (in press)

  • Marmot M, Wilkinson RG (eds) (2006) Social Determinants of Health. Second Edition. Oxford University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • McCarthy HD, Cole TJ, Fry T, Jebb SA, Prentice AM (2006) Body fat reference curves for children. Int J Obes 30:598–602

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • National High Blood Pressure Education Program Working Group on High Blood Pressure in Children and Adolescents (2004) The fourth report on the diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of high blood pressure in children and adolescents. Pediatrics 114:555–576

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • National Institute of Public Health (1997) Determinants of the burden of disease in the EU. Stockholm

  • Nunez C, Kovera AJ, Pietrobelli A, Heshka S, Horlick M, Kehayias JJ, Wang Z, Heymsfield SB (1999) Body composition in children and adults by air displacement plethysmography. Eur J Clin Nutr 53:382–387

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Park Y, Hunter DJ, Spiegelman D, Bergkvist L, Berrino F, van den Brandt PA, Buring JE, Colditz GA, Freudenheim JL, Fuchs CS, Giovannucci E, Goldbohm RA, Graham S, Harnack L, Hartman AM, Jacobs DR Jr, Kato I, Krogh V, Leitzmann MF, McCullough ML, Miller AB, Pietinen P, Rohan TE, Schatzkin A, Willett WC, Wolk A, Zeleniuch-Jacquotte A, Zhang SM, Smith-Warner SA (2005) Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer: a pooled analysis of prospective cohort studies. JAMA 294: 2849–2857

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Pikora T, Bull F, Jamrozik K, Knuiman M, Giles-Corti B, Donovan R (2002) Developing a reliable audit instrument to measure the physical environment for physical activity. Am J Prev Med 23:187–194

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Potter JD (2005) Vegetables, fruit, and cancer. Lancet 366:527–530

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Schatzkin A, Kipnis V, Carroll RJ, Midthune D, Subar AF, Bingham S, Schoeller DA, Troiano RP, Freedman LS (2003) A comparison of a food frequency questionnaire with a 24-hour recall for use in an epidemiological cohort study: results from the biomarker–based Observing Protein and Energy Nutrition (OPEN) study. Int J Epidemiol 32:1054–1062

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Story M, Neumark-Sztainer D, French S (2002) Individual and environmental influences on adolescent eating behaviors. J Am Diet Assoc 102(3 Suppl.):S40–S51

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


IDEFICS will be supported by the European Commission, 6th Framework Programme, Food Quality and Safety (contract no. 016181). We gratefully acknowledge the financial and personal support of the University of Bremen and of the German National Contact Point during the development of the IDEFICS proposal.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Karin Bammann.

Consortium of the IDEFICS Project

Consortium of the IDEFICS Project

Project Coordinator: Wolfgang Ahrens1

1. Bremen Institute for Prevention Research and Social Medicine, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany (Wolfgang Ahrens, Iris Pigeot, Karin Bammann, Jenny Peplies, Hermann Pohlabeln)

2. Department of Public Health/Department of Movement and Sport Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium (Stefaan de Henauw, Lea Maes, Ilse de Bourdeaudhuij)

3. Research and Education Institute of Child Health, Strovolos, Cyprus (Michalis Tornaritis, Savvas C. Savva, Charis Chadjigeorgiou, Yiannis Kourides)

4. Laboratory of Nutrition, Ageing and Cardiovascular Diseases, University Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France (Michel de Lorgeril)

5. Sensory Laboratory, Technologie-Transfer-Zentrum Bremerhaven, Bremerhaven, Germany (Kirsten Buchecker)

6. Institute of Diet Exercise and Lifestyle, Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom (Yannis Pitsiladis)

7. Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom (Garrath D. Williams, David Archard)

8. Department of Paediatrics, Medical Faculty, University of Pécs, Pécs , Hungary (Dénes Molnár, Eva Kovács, Eva Erhardt, Eva Lányi)

9. Laboratory of Genetic and Environmental Epidemiology, Research Laboratories, Centre for High Technology Research and Education in Biomedical Sciences, University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Campobasso, Italy (Licia Iacoviello, Maria Carmela Latella, Augusto Di Castelnuovo, Maria Benedetta Donati, Giovanni de Gaetano)

10. Institute of Food Sciences, Unit of Epidemiology and Population Genetics, National Research Council, Avellino, Italy (Alfonso Siani, Gianvincenzo Barba, Paola Russo; Pasquale Strazzullo from Dept. of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, “Federico II” University of Naples, Naples Italy)

11. Nutritional Epidemiology Unit, National Cancer Institute, Milan, Italy (Vittorio Krogh, Sabina Sieri)

12. Department of Pharmacological Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy (Claudio Galli)

13. University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain (Luis Moreno)

14. Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Nutrition and Biotechnology, University Illes Balears, Palma de Mallorca, Spain (Andreu Palou, Catalina Picó)

15. Unit for Preventive Nutrition, Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden (Michael Sjöström, Eric Poortvliet, Maria Hagströmer, Patrick Bergman)

16. Department of Paediatrics, Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital, Göteborg University, Department of Community Medicine and Public Health, Sahlgrenska Academy at Gö teborg University, Gothenburg, Sweden (Staffan Mårild, Lauren Lissner, Gabriele Eiben)

17. National Institute for Health Development, Tallinn, Estonia (Toomas Veidebaum)

18. Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark (Lucia Reisch, Suzanne Beckmann)

19. The European Food Information Council, Brussels, Belgium (Josephine Wills, Laura Fernandez, Laura Smillie)

20. Laboratoriumsmedizin Dortmund, Eberhard und Partner, Dortmund, Germany (Arno Fraterman, Arnold Eberhard)

21. Gockel Design, Wuppertal, Germany (Ralf Gockel, Martin Staubach)

22. BioTel Ltd, Clifton, Bristol, United Kingdom (Mark P. Rayson)

23. Pécs TV Communication Ltd, Pécs, Hungary (János Keresnyei)

24 Agorà Med srl, Naples, Italy (Riccardo Siani, Ferdinando Giacco)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bammann, K., Peplies, J., Sjöström, M. et al. Assessment of diet, physical activity and biological, social and environmental factors in a multi-centre European project on diet- and lifestyle-related disorders in children (IDEFICS). J Public Health 14, 279–289 (2006).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: