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Danes eat most unhealthily on Saturdays and exercise the least on Sundays

Thursday 20 Feb 20

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Matilda Nordman
Academic Officer
National Food Institute
+45 93 51 08 88

Contact

Jeppe Matthiessen
Senior adviser
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 74 44

Compared with a normal weekday, Danes consume 20% more calories on Saturdays and are 20% less physically active on Sundays, according to data from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark.

Sweets on the table for the kids and a bottle of red wine and some cake to go with the coffee for the adults. If this sounds like a familiar scenario at your place on a Friday night, you are far from alone: Danes’ dietary habits take a turn for the worse on the first day of the weekend and stay that way until the beginning of the new week.

Researchers from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, in cooperation with colleagues from the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen have analyzed dietary habits and physical activity levels on weekdays (Monday to Thursday) and weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) in a large group of kids, adolescents, adults and elderly people.

Saturday has the worst eating habits

Data show that Danes generally eat most unhealthily on Saturdays: On this day Danes eat 36% less fruit, 25% fewer vegetables and 23% less whole grains, while intake of sweets and snacks is 39% greater compared to a weekday. A large proportion of Danes' beer and wine intake occurs on Saturdays.

“On average, Danes consume 20% more calories on a Saturday than on a weekday. This equates to every Dane eating an extra 110 gram bag of wine gums on Saturdays,” Academic Officer Matilda Nordman from the National Food Institute explains.

"On average, Danes consume 20% more calories on a Saturday than on a weekday. This equates to every Dane eating an extra 110 gram bag of wine gums on Saturdays."
Academic Officer Matilda Nordman

“If Danes were to replace their Saturday eating habits with their eating habits on a normal weekday, a weight loss could be achieved. However, it’s unrealistic to think that Danes would replace all the wine gums with carrot sticks and all the beer with tap water on Saturdays. Thankfully, even by making smaller changes, people could achieve a positive health effect. Replacing some of the sweet treats, beer and wine with more fruit, vegetables, whole grains and water, would also make a difference on the scales,” Matilda Nordman says.

Danes are couch potatoes on Sundays

During the weekend, Danes’ activity levels also take a turn for the worse: The average activity level on weekdays is almost 10,000 steps, when time spent bicycling is converted into steps and added to the number of steps taken.

”However, on average the activity level on Saturdays is down 14% compared to a weekday and on Sundays it is 20% lower than on a weekday. So it seems that Danes are very good at observing the day of rest,” Senior Advisor Jeppe Matthiessen from the National Food Institute emphasizes.

"Our results indicate that health-promoting initiatives aimed at helping to overcome Denmark’s obesity problem could benefit from having a focus on better dietary habits and increased levels of activity on the weekend," Jeppe Matthiessen adds.

The fluctuations between the days of the week are less pronounced for people over the age of 60. This is probably because the week is structured differently for retirees and the difference between the seven days is greater when you go to school or work on weekdays and relax on weekends.

“According to a previous study from the University of Copenhagen such large fluctuations in health behavior between the days of the week result in a poorer health profile immediately after the weekend compared to before the weekend—particularly among children” adds Associate Professor Mads Fiil Hjorth from the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen.

Read more

The study is described in further details in a scientific article in the journal Public Health Nutrition: Weekly variation in dietary intake and physical activity among 4-75-year-old Danes and in an e-article from the National Food Institute: Danes have most unhealthy eating habits on Saturdays and are least active on Sundays.

Data for the study have been derived from 4000 Danes aged 4-75 who have registered their food and beverage consumption during a whole week. In the same week, the amount of steps they have taken have also been measured. Data were collected during the Danish national survey of diet and physical activity 2011-2013.