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Monday, 20 November, 2000, 06:19 GMT
Healthy change for young Scots
Children eating
Children are eating more healthy food
Scottish teenagers are eating more healthy food, taking more exercise and watching less television than at any time in the last decade, according to new research.

But the study found that there had been a "significant increase" in the amount of time spent playing computer games.

More than 5,000 schoolchildren were questioned by the Health Education Board for Scotland (HEBS) which wantged to show changes in the eating and exercise patterns of 11 to 15-year-old children over the last decade.

It found that the amount of fruit, raw vegetables and salads being eaten by teenagers had increased since 1990.

Youngsters are defying the couch potato image
There has also been a marked increase in the consumption of cooked vegetables, rice and pasta since 1994.

The study revealed a fall in the number of youngsters spending four or more hours a night watching television, or the same length of time a week watching videos.

That co-incided with a 7% increase in the number of youngsters exercising for at least six hours a week.

However, there has also been a significant increase in the proportion of boys - and 13-year-old girls - who play computer games for four or more hours a week.

Eating habits

Dr Candace Currie is the principal author of the study, carried out by the Research Unit in Health and Behaviour Change at Edinburgh University.

"We are surprised at the extent to which eating habits have become more healthy," she said.

"As our study has now been running since 1990, we can see this is an encouraging trend which seems to be gaining momentum."

Mary Allison, a research specialist at HEBS, said the increase in exercise offered a "real hope for the future".

Step by step, we will shed the sausage supper syndrome and build ourselves a healthier future

Martin Raymond, HEBS head of public affairs
She said: "There is evidence that children who are physically active when young are more likely to carry this over into adult life."

Research specialist Dr Cathy Higginson said young people were actively choosing a healthy lifestyle.

"Although teenagers are still keen on burgers and chips, many of them are now eating more fruit and vegetables than previously, and fish, rice and pasta are increasingly popular foods," she said.

HEBS works to encourage healthy eating and active lifestyles in Scotland.

Head of public affairs Martin Raymond said teenagers were setting an example to adults.

"No-one doubts the distance we still have to go, but this study shows that Scotland can lose its 'sick man of Europe' label," he said.

"Change is coming and it looks like it's starting with younger people.

"It takes time but, step by step, we will shed the sausage supper syndrome and build ourselves a healthier future."

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See also:

09 Sep 00 | Scotland
Child health cash pledge
01 Jun 00 | Health
Children 'eating themselves ill'
27 Apr 00 | Health
Parents fear for children's diet
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