Denmark targets increased fruit consumption in kids

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Coronary heart disease, Nutrition, Denmark

Denmark is again setting a healthy nutrition standard in Europe by
providing free fruit in over 250 schools for the first two months
of 2007.

The pilot scheme, entitled FruitBreak, is designed to inspire schools and municipalities to set up school fruit schemes that provide fruit and vegetables daily to school children during the midmorning break.

According to minister of food, agriculture and fisheries, Hans Chr. Schmidt, fruit is currently only readily available at one out of three schools in Denmark, and only 20 per cent of Danish school-age children eat the WHO-recommended 400 grams fruit and vegetables daily.

"The project is part of a strategy to improve our children's food habits,"​ said Schmidt. "Most children think that fruit tastes good. So if we can make fruit more accessible in school, I am sure that they will eat more."

This aim is supported by the findings of a number of recent scientific studies. A meta-analysis by scientists from France's INSERM in Paris, Lille's Pasteur Institute, and Rouen's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, for example, pooled nine cohort studies giving an overall study population of 91,379 men, 129,701 women, and 5,007 coronary heart disease events.

Studies were included in the meta-analysis if they reported relative risks for coronary heart disease or mortality and if fruit and vegetable intake was quantitatively assessed.

The analysis, published in a recent issue of the Journal of Nutrition (Vol. 136, pp. 2588-2593), found that the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), conditions that cause of 20 per cent of deaths in the US and 17 per cent of deaths in Europe, was cut by four per cent for each additional fruit and vegetable portion consumed, and by seven per cent for fruit portion intake.

Establishing good eating habits early is therefore vital, and has proven to be effective. Most Danish schools participate in the school milk programme, and experience suggests that the program has a significant effect on consumption of milk later in life.

The FruitBreak project has been implemented in close cooperation with 6 A DAY, the Danish Cancer Society, the Produce Marketing Board and Regional Centres for Education in association with the Danish Centre for Food and Health. The two month free introduction period will be followed by a class-based subscription paid for by parents.

Denmark, a country famous for its rich and hearty cuisine, was also the first European country to set stringent limits on the amount of trans fats permitted within food products. Danish law requires that trans fatty acids constitute less than two per cent of the total oil and fat content of any product.

Trans fats, mainly found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil a common ingredient in thousands of food products, have been negatively linked to raising blood cholesterol levels and promoting heart disease. Research shows that when too much 'bad' cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain resulting in atherosclerosis.

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